Moroccan government adopts plan to preserve argan trees through co-ops

As global demand for argan oil grows, there are concerns over the impact of climate change, deforestation and harvesting

Co-ops are being drafted into an effort to preserve Morocco’s argan tree, which is suffering the impact of harvesting, deforestation and climate change.

To highlight the threat to the argan’s ecosystem, the UN celebrated the fourth International Day of Argania on 10 May. Declared an intangible cultural heritage in 2021, the tree is an endemic woodland species found in the Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve in southwest Morocco.

The country is home to 1,014 argan co-operatives, including 688 women’s co-ops, and Morocco’s Office of Cooperation Development (ODCO), says they play a crucial role in preserving traditional knowledge, empowering local communities, particularly women, and ensuring fair and equitable distribution of profits. 

The first of these co-ops, Cooperative Al Amal, was founded in the village of Marjane in the Essaouira region in 1996. Since then, the sector continued to grow, employing 10,804 women and 2,970 men at present.

With global demand for argan oil products expected to increase by more than 20.38% between 2022 and 2030, there are growing concerns over deforestation and harvesting of argan trees. 

To celebrate the international day, the National Agency for the Development of Oasis Zones and Argan Trees (ANDZOA), in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Maritime Fisheries, Rural Development and Water and Forests and other organisations, hosted an International Argan Tree Exhibition in Agadir on 8-12 May. 

Experts shared their research and knowledge on the impact of climate change on the growth, health and sustainability of the argan grove. The event also highlighted the challenges facing the argan tree due to climate change.

Building on the event, ODCO, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Tourism, Handicrafts, and Social and Solidarity Economy, convened a meeting with various stakeholders, including co-ops, to assess the challenges faced by the sector and explore potential solutions.

The meeting concluded with the adoption of an action plan to preserve this intangible cultural heritage, focusing on adopting harvesting and reforestation best practices, investing in community development projects, promoting the creation of co-operatives with substantial bases, and integrating technology into argan oil production for modern extraction methods.