Argan Oil Co-Ops Booming in Morocco

Morocco’s so-called „gold“ is Helping to Reduce Desertification Amid Climate Change and Providing Jobs for Hundreds of Women in a Thriving Network of Co-operatives

June 13th, 2016

In less than two decades, Moroccan argan oil has become one of the most wanted beauty products for hair, skin and nails in the entire world. When it is pressed, the argan tree’s fruit produces a luxurious oil which is rich in fatty acids, omega-6 and vitamin E. Morocco is the only location in the world where argan oil can be produced.

Ajddigue women’s argan co-operative is one in a network of 30 co-operatives that have been turning Moroccon’s “gold” into a thriving business that is changing women’s lives. It not only brings money and access to international markets, but it also challenges traditional views about the role of women in society. In 2015, Morocco produced about 4,000 tonnes of the oil, about a third which was exported. The price for a litre of pure argan oil can fetch around €25. The co-operatives have been successful and much of the produce is now brought by large global brands including Aveda and L’Oréal. Zoubida Charrouf, a lecturer at Mohammed V University in Rabat, began to look at ways to commercialise the oil production, which resulted in the creation of cooperatives. “The best thing about argan is that all parts of the tree can be used, and it’s something that’s just here for free, local and special to Morocco” she says. National income per capita in Morocco is about €3,000.  Each hectare planted with argan trees can generate about €400 per year – a significant sum for remote villages in the Agadir region.

Another positiv is that the cooperatives have also been used as a base to educate and empower women. Charrouf explains “in the beginning men did not want their women to go out to work, we had really encourage the women, giving them confidence to deal with budgets and sale prices, and to teach them to negotiate with international buyers”. The Ajddigue women regularly consult buyers in Japan, France and Canada, processing orders for refined argan oil. Another member of the co-operative says “We set the price. We process the orders over the phone or on the internet, then we package it up and sent it directly from the post office to out customers, there is no middle man involved”. Moreover, Ajddigue is one of three co-operatives in Charrouf’s network to have gained a certificate for Fairtrade and organic production.

Argan trees also play a crucial role in the battle against desertification in this arid region. Charrouf’s research showed the benefits of argan forests – the trees have deep roots, which means they can reach deep pockets of groundwater, and help stabilise the soil. The popularity and also lucrative nature of Moroccan argan oil is so strong that the government has decided to get involved. They are making an effort to increase the size of the argan forests, which have already been declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and triple national production of argan oil by the year 2020.

“For me, the biggest success has been women’s empowerment, both economically and socially” says Charrouf.


Cultural Diplomacy News
Veronika Mecnarowska, CD News