Argan trees are endemic to Morocco and are vital to maximizing prosperity, food security and biodiversity in the nation's region of Essaouira. Its processing into oil and sale conducted by women's cooperatives empower them and their families, and provides markets a medicinal and delicious food product in high demand.
Rural Moroccans make up approximately 34% of the country's population, and 80% of their households earn less than the national average (World Bank, 2014). The low market-value of traditional staple crops (corn and barley) has made subsistence agriculture unsustainable. These staples are planted on more than 70% of agricultural land, yet account for only 10-15% of agricultural revenue. Farming families are planting more profitable Argan trees, but the high demand on trees has increased prices.
Cooperative-building is an integral part of the project to assist with implementation and monitoring. The High Atlas Foundation conducted a program to build capacities in creating and managing local agricultural cooperatives. We will continue to build with community members the skills to plant and maintain the Argan nursery and monitor the results. We work with communities to secure organic certification, process and commercialize the product, and monitor and sell carbon credit offsets.
The HAF's organic enterprise increases agricultural revenue for family farmers by: 1) expanding cultivation; 2) securing organic certification; 3) processing to gain added value; 4) assisting direct sales by farmers' cooperatives; and 5) building efficient irrigation systems. This Argan forest will remind future generations that Moroccan multiculturalism and interfaith solidarity is intrinsic to its society.