Beneath the wide-ranging Atlas Mountains, a tradition, practised for centuries by the Berber women of Southern Morocco, is having a dramatic impact on their lives.
Since the turn of the century, women’s co-operatives have sprung up across south-west Morocco, and Argan oil production has increased rapidly over the last decade or so. It’s in these co-operatives that they are producing an oil which is now sold in many beauty and culinary products across the globe.
This tiny little fruit, produced from the Argan tree, itself a rare and wonderful species of tree (its battling the Sahara desert all by itself, but more on that later), is having a dramatic social and economic impact on the lives of thousands of women.
A first world luxury
Argan oil – produced from the kernels of the Argan Tree, is fast becoming one of the most sought after beauty products across the world. Endorsed by celebrities, this once-unheard of oil is becoming popular for its anti-ageing effects on the skin, as well as its medicinal benefits for conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
And, while westerners are reaping the benefits of Argan oil, they are doing so safe in the knowledge that it’s an ethically sourced product. It is estimated that up to 2.2 million people are benefitting from the production of Argan Oil in the main oil producing region, known as the Arganeraie.
Education and empowerment
In a county where men are the traditional bread-winners, Argan oil co-operatives are providing women with a level of autonomy, a level of equality. Good working conditions, fair pay and a new awareness of their rights as women, all factors helping to change the socio-economic balance in Morocco.
The women of the Arganeraie (the local area) are using their incomes to provide education for themselves and for their children. This is helping their communities to grow and become more sustainable.
The Berber women (photo courtesy of Zweena Body Care)
While Argan oil is becoming so popular, unfortunately the source of this magical lotion is under threat. The Argan tree is very rare and only grows in this part of Morocco, so over-production of the oil could lead to a global shortage.
Thankfully, the co-operatives have initiated a reforestation project, keeping harvesting methods responsible, sustaining the ecosystem for the trees. In fact, in 1998, the Argan forest area was designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
The Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve is helping to sustain this wonderful industry, as well as achieving its goals of biodiversity and socioeconomic welfare for the people of the region.
It’s refreshing to know that behind this little fruit lies a story which for once makes us happy. It’s nice to know that there’s a product which isn’t manufactured by a child in a sweatshop.
Perhaps if the co-operative model was applied more across the developing world, there would be more empowerment, not only for women, but all people.
Bellealla.co.uk is proud to be a retailer of Argan oil and we have a fantastic range of products to choose from. Click here to see our exciting choice.
For more information on Argan oil and its production, please click here. International Women’s Day takes place on March 8 2015