Desertic landscape at the border of the Argan Oil Sector, south of Tiznit, South-West Morocco

Involving local Population in order to stop the Decline of the Argan Forest

In 1995, geographers realized that the advance of desertification was correlated to the decline of the argan tree, which indeed acts as a natural barrier against desertification. At that time, engineers from the German-Moroccan Competency Network in collaboration with local authorities, decided to submit to local populations, the majority of which were Berber, a project aimed at safeguarding the argan forest. 

They suggested to accompany the ecological efforts with an economic development, culinary and cosmetic argan oil able to represent an important and substantial source of income. 

Up until then, argan oil production was intended solely for family use.

Preserving the Argan Tree through Valorization of Argan Oil

Consequently, by combining the value of the argan tree’s production and its ecological preservation, local resources were mobilized to ensure an economic, social, cultural and ecological durability in southern Morocco.             

In order to improve cosmetic argan oil production, the production process had to be reorganized. Based on a traditional production system intended for the needs of single family, it was necessary to mobilize and join these structures to optimize production in order to keep up with market demand. Fruit selection, transportation, storage, transformation and quality control had to meet the requirements and quality standards of the international market.

To this end, it was decided that local requirements would be met, as they are strongly linked to specific features from the Berber culture. Fruit transformation, selection and harvesting are tasks reserved to women. They singlehandedly remove the pulp, as well as crush, roast, knead, press and extract the golden coloured liquid.

Argan Oil Womens' Coops as a Compromise between Berber Traditions and modern Requirements

With this in mind, the decision to organize production based on the cooperative mode of operation was the best response to the local peculiarities. The implemented solution consisted in the creation of the Argan Women’s Syndicate in Agadir.  In 2014, it has over 1200 women members organized into 23 cooperatives. As members of these cooperatives, these women harvest, select and transform the argan oil into its culinary or cosmetic form. Since 1995, some other 200 womens' coops have been created in south western Morocco, but were not organized like ours in a central syndicate. 

The sales from the argan oil production constitute a substantial income allowing the women to emancipate themselves from an economic and social standpoint. It also contributes to the development of the local economy.

Through the promotion of argan products and the benefits that emanate from them, women feel more concerned by the safeguard of the biological preserve.

Syndicated Coops working with democratic Mechanisms

These cooperatives are self-managed and each woman has the right to vote when decisions are proposed by the directors. The decision-making is made on a democratic basis. Each cooperative from the syndicate elects a president and the 23 presidents then form the plenary of the syndicate. The women’s syndicate makes sure that the argan oil products meet requirements such as traceability, promotion, certification as well as quality control. Most single coops unfortunately just can not afford these global requirements.

Coop members are compensated on a monthly basis and the annual profits are then redistributed according to the participation of each woman in the different tasks of oil making (picking and crushing). In a region where most women are still illiterate, working within cooperatives provides an income and a certain status.

Cooperatives organize production and commercialization, they are self-financed and self-managed, thereby ensuring an income for women. Two incomes allow families to send their children to school. This is particularly important for girls, giving that the illiteracy level among them was still at 95%in the 1990s.

Our partner and exclusive supplier, the Argan Women’s Syndicate and its 23 associated cooperatives, also offer Arabic lessons (most of the women only speak Berber) and arithmetic classes as well as production and management training. 

These classes are not given in vain as the life of the cooperative requires the ongoing implementation of these concepts, on a daily basis. Harvest reports, inventory management, traceability, payslips and production assessments must be read, written and understood. Women realize the importance for their children to read and write and therefore, a virtuous circle is created.

The new generation of women evolving between ancestral tradition and modernity, diversifies and improves the argan oil production, creates businesses and rural accommodations