Ancient Argan Oil Forests – an Agro Forestry model
The Argan Tree for a modern world
Argan Oil forests grows naturally in only one country – Morocco.
For thousands of years the Berber people who live there have farmed these super tough trees producing an anti aging Argan Oil prized for its benefits for skin care.
Families and cooperatives farm small sections of their forests to make the nutrient rich Argan Oil and produce other crops to eat. Healthy and organic Argan Oil protects skin and revitalises hair and in doing so Argan Oil generates a much needed income in the region. This is all done using ancient agro forestry management system.
What does Argan Oil do?
Moroccan Argan Oil is a natural organic product suitable for natural skin care and reviving tired hair. The tree nut oil conditions aging skin, smooths and repairs hair. The healthy Argan Oil nuts produce a natural organic product suitable for soothing skin and restoring lifeless, damaged hair.
Argan Oil generates international interest – an exciting opportunity
Ancient Argan oil forests have been badly exploited in recent times but thanks to the international upsurge of interest in the anti aging effects Argan Oil has things are changing for the better.
Traditionally hard Argan nuts are individually gathered by hand then pressed into oil. This is an arduous process that takes make kilos of the precious nuts to make just one kilo of pure Argan Oil.
However, enlightened investment by Moroccan professors and the UNESCO declaration of the Argan Oil forests as a biosphere reserve have brought much needed help in the way of modern cold pressing machinery that improves oil quality and production volumes, financial investment and education.
Argan Oil Empowers Berber Women’s Cooperatives
A Moroccan professor’s interest in the preservation of the Argan tree has now increased the women’s co-operatives income by more than ten times making ecological Agro Forestry management of the Argan Trees a sustainable way of life.
Argan oil expert Zoubida Charrouf worked with the Argan Oil Women’s Cooperatives for many years. She developed an interest in the resilient Argan tree’s powers and the use of oil for natural and effective skin care as well as for long term conservation of the forests and income that it generates in poor communities.
When the project started Morocco was losing over 600 hectares of Argan forest each year from lack of management.
Since improving the extraction of oil, by establishing modern cooperatives run entirely by local women, commercialisation of Argan oil has boosted business and emancipated the women by offering them a real livelihood and fair wages. Most major cosmetic companies are now fans of the wonderful oil including it as a start ingredient in many of their anti aging skin and hair care products .
Mechanising some of the laborious production tasks, such as grinding the nuts and pressing the oil has sped up processing at the Argan Oil women’s cooperatives and also improved the quality of the oil, doubled its shelf life, and reduced waste.
The effects of Argan Oil production modernisation.
Ten years since the start of the projects co-operative members can now earn around 75 Dirhams / $8.60 a day, which is more than ten times the potential before the projects started. Because of what Argan oil can do it is now a high value product on the international market, and what began as a small scale industry could now provide more employment to poorly educated Moroccan women.
“Being part of the women’s cooperative freed me from tedious domestic work in people’s homes,” said one co-operative member.
“I’m learning to read and write and I’ve learned how to ensure the quality of the Argan kernels. The cooperative has made me more independent. I’ve been able to visit other cooperatives in other provinces. I’ve seen how girls and women like me have been able to shape their own destiny and move ahead to develop their cooperatives.”
UNESCO and the Argan forests Biosphere Reserve Protection
The Argan tree is still one of the rarest species of tree on Earth. It grows in very specific soil conditions and at specific temperatures. Within Morocco the Argan tree only grows within a narrow band of the country between the Moroccan seaside cities of Essaouira and Agadir preferring to grow close to the coast in the salty soil. It has evolved to survive the most arid conditions.
Argan oil trees survived as a relic of the Earth’s Tertiary Period, which ended about 1.6 million years ago It is grows slowly and has strong thorns that cover the tree protecting the Argan fruit from most grazing animals. The tree may grow up to 10 meters tall and can live for over 200 years.
Resilient to intense sun the tough Argan forests protect the dry soil against rain, strong sun and wind erosion. Sadly, in the recent past, trees would be cut for their wood and for grazing. Camel and goat herders would bring their animal to graze on the Argan Tree leaves damaging the trees.
To protect the tree, UNESCO declared 2,560,000 hectares, bordered by the High Atlas and Anti-Atlas Mountains and to the Atlantic in the west a “biosphere reserve”. The Argan Trees trees themselves currently cover an area of around 800,000 hectares within the area of the biosphere reserve.