Argan Nursery and Forest in Essaouira, Morocco

by High Atlas Foundation
Argan Nursery and Forest in Essaouira, Morocco
Argan Nursery and Forest in Essaouira, Morocco
Argan Nursery and Forest in Essaouira, Morocco
Argan Nursery and Forest in Essaouira, Morocco
Argan Nursery and Forest in Essaouira, Morocco
Argan Nursery and Forest in Essaouira, Morocco
Argan Nursery and Forest in Essaouira, Morocco
Argan Nursery and Forest in Essaouira, Morocco
Argan Nursery and Forest in Essaouira, Morocco
Argan Nursery and Forest in Essaouira, Morocco
Argan Nursery and Forest in Essaouira, Morocco
Argan Nursery and Forest in Essaouira, Morocco
A member of Cooperative Essaouira Mogador. Photo:
A member of Cooperative Essaouira Mogador. Photo:

 An emblem of the Kingdom of Morocco is the Argan tree (Argania Spinosa L.) and the oil produced from its fruit. One can see goats climbing on the hard, thorny branches of this tree to eat its fruit and leaves. Traditionally, farmers harvest the fruit during September, and they use its kernel either roasted or unroasted, depending on the purpose. 

 The local Amazigh population has made this tree, solely found in the Souss-Massa and Marrakech-Safi regions along the coast between Essaouira and Agadir, uniquely theirs. In a way, it has always served them and their animals with its many gifts, including significant medicinal properties as shown by scientific research, which has boosted its international prominence. 

 Argan consists of numerous fatty acids, vitamin E, and melatonin, which gives the oil a moisturizing effect as well as beneficial values to prevent aging of the skin. Moroccan women, and especially the Amazigh women of the Argan region, use the oil to protect themselves against the sun. Recent studies have shown that Argan oil contains properties that reduce the damaging effect of free radicals. Other studies have also determined to have found values in the oil that may prevent prostate cancer. Lastly, it also contains beneficial ingredients for treating eczema and acne, and it may also contribute to the prevention of diabetes.

 In recent years, Morocco has evolved significantly in many regards. It is not only modernizing its infrastructure but also the role that women play in society. Argan oil has played a considerable role in this shift as women’s cooperatives help rural women to support themselves and gain independence. 

 The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) is honored to help such women’s cooperatives become established, to become self-sufficient, and to grow. We recognized the Argan tree to be an undeniable gift that ties deep-rooted tradition to the modernity of its medicinal values and propels Moroccan women toward an enhanced autonomy.

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Today - May 10 - is the International Day of Argania. Argan is an important part of Morocco's natural heritage. It is what the United Nations has called a "fundamental pillar for sustainable development."

Argan has been an important part of HAF's work for this very reason - its economic, social, and environmental benefits endure. We plant these trees with women's cooperatives and with the outstanding support of international partners, notably FRÉ Skincare, UNDP, Ecosia, and friends like you.

We invite you to watch and read more about how we celebrate Argan - and to plant this special tree with us in Moroccan communities.

Argan cosmetic products at the Mejji cooperative.
Argan cosmetic products at the Mejji cooperative.
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Rue:

Hello FRE, my name is Rue and today we are going to go live with Yossef from the High Atlas Foundation, so I’m going to invite him in and then we’ll get started. Alright, he should be getting it soon. So today we’re really going to be talking about Fré’s social mission, specifically our one set on tree programme, and here he is, the man of the hour.

Hi Yossef, how are you?

Yossef:

Good, good to be here.

Rue:

Good to be with you as well. Where are you talking to us from today? 

Yossef:

I am from Elaraki International School in Marrakech, on the road to Casablanca. I wish I could tell you more about it, but we are having Green Week here at the school and an organization, a volunteering organization called AIESEC, whom Kaoutar is holding the camera for us – she is an alumni of AIESEC – an amazing international group that has young people volunteering their time and energy for all kinds of good missions around the world. They have organized a Green Week at Elaraki school, and here we are.

Rue: 

Here we are. Great, so today we’re going to talk a little bit about you, the High Atlas Foundation and how you work with FRE, specifically our one set one tree programme. So first maybe we should get started and I'll let you introduce yourself.

Yossef:

My name is Yossef . I am approaching my 30th year giving whatever energy I have to Morocco. I started as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1993 in the Taroudant province in the High Atlas Mountains, and a lot of us couldn’t just walk away. We were inspired by so many things, but I would say maybe primarily the stories of the people and their dreams and hopes and incredible difficulties. In the early 90s, every household in the village [where] I lived lost children to lack of clean drinking water, basically. So, it is very hard to walk away from that knowing that solutions are real and available and possible and affordable, and so I and others began the High Atlas Foundation in 2000. I've always gone back and forth between academia and work here, but since 2010, it has been full-time High Atlas Foundation in Morocco, and primarily Marrakech.

Rue:

Awesome, and what’s the mission of the High Atlas Foundation? I know you touched on it a little bit now, but what are you really doing today? What’s your main goal?

Yossef:

Well something we learned from our very start here that has been reaffirmed literally countless times – When we consider the development interventions around the world, practically since World War II, we learned that sustainability depends on community participation, the community design of the project, their prioritization, their management, evaluation, and control. They are the drivers, creators of the change that they want in their lives and the High Atlas Foundation really simply supports that process.

Often times when we go into community meetings, whoever we are – residents, member of civil society, a young person, an elderly person – we go in with constraints and doubts and fears, and with social control in our lives and relationships that maybe not enhances the rest we would hope, and so part of communities identifying what they want is to also look at (maybe first for us) those inhibitions that we all carry and what can we do to change that around and then go into planning the project. And, what we find is that when we take that time for self discovery – for building our belief and the vision that we want for our future –  if we begin with that and then go into prioritizing projects and specific kinds of initiatives, we find that the project that results have long life and very serious dedication behind it, and so that’s really our job – to help communities create the plans that truly reflect their interests and what they most want for their families, for themselves, for their communities.

Rue:

That’s great, so listening to the community and helping them achieve what they’re looking for.

Yossef:

Exactly, and that’s… I think are deep connections with FRE skincare. Fré was actually born in the idea of corporate responsibility, it’s part of its beginning and we connect on that point of realizing the dreams of Moroccan people. But really helping them achieve the goals that they set for themselves and in Essaouira province where the Argan – and also Taroudant province – where Argan grows, women's cooperatives, community groups…They want to plant Argan, in fact it’s a generational benefit and not only do they want to plant Argan, they want to process and sell it directly to users or directly to corporations like Fréskincare. FRE skincare is also dedicated to that, not just planting the trees but purchasing the product directly from the woman’s cooperatives that produce that oil. We are also riveted on the idea that we don’t have priority other than the community and the cooperatives, and Fré and High Atlas Foundation joined in Essaouira province to make that kind of difference.

Rue:

Awesome. Do you think you can maybe talk a little bit about that program with the Argan cooperatives and how Fré and High Atlas Foundation have worked together throughout the past 2 years to do that?

Yossef:

Yeah, so maybe we’ll just take a step back and look at what’s going on nationally in Morocco in regards to rural development, which directly impacts the Fré-High Atlas Foundation initiative. In Morocco, 70% of agricultural land only generates 10 to 15 % of agricultural revenue – 70% of land, only 10 to 15 percent of revenue. And that's because of the heavy reliance of growing barley and corn in traditional ways. And it has to be overcome, among other things, that have to be sustainably managed in order for rural poverty to be really addressed. The growers have to be processors of their product, cooperatives need to be productive and able to achieve international standards of management and quality. Some other things need to also happen, but overcoming the barley and corn dependence without the farmers having the means to purchase the trees that they want… In Morocco, there are 13 varieties of fruit trees that grow organically and Argan is just one; walnuts, cherry, fig, pomegranates, lemon, olive, carob… So you know … thankfully Morocco is a breadbasket, a potential one in that regard. So there's huge demand on fruit trees in the country and so-and-so on Argan.

Now, our challenge with Argan. So with Argan, it is actually classified. Unlike the other trees that bear fruit, Argan is classified as a forestry tree in Morocco. And that's because once it reaches a certain maturity, 5-6 years, then it doesn't have to be irrigated. It grows as a forestry tree but in those early years, it needs to be irrigated and so we work together, Fré skincare and HAF, in order to generate the quantities of trees that people want. And so right now we built a nursery with over 60,000 plants. We are working together so the planting season basically begins this month. Hmdoullah last week, we really started to have good rain in Morocco. In Marrakech, it finally came a couple days ago. And so when that first rain comes, there's really a rush to plant, you know, the soil is ready, the ground’s ready, you know, this is the moment and it continues until around March, mid-March.

So we are very focused, together, on transplanting the Argan trees from the Community Nursery with cooperatives and communities in Taroudant provinces who want Argan, but one of the things that we have to also think about very seriously is because Argan requires those few years to be irrigated, it's not just a matter of simply planting with the people because they know that unless there's irrigation installed for those beginning years, it's going to be tough for that Argan forest to truly become just that. So we're also figuring out ways how we can help cooperatives and farming communities who are dependent on Argan, want to expand argon, or want to transition to it, to work with them in order to deal with also the water management issues, which is key in order for Argan to really be broadly absorbed and the net hectarage of argon no longer decline. Now, the decline has slowed, but we are not at a net gain every year of Argan trees being planted in the country. And the key, in order to achieve that, is to deal with the irrigation infrastructure. I spoke a lot just there.

Rue:

I guess I just want to share for the people watching who might not know how we work and how Fré works with you, is that for every set that we sell, we work with you to plant a tree in Morocco and all the irrigation and stuff I guess comes into play once a tree is planted. But really basically, like if you are there and you buy a product, you're directly giving back to the Argan rural cooperative, the people of Morocco and the environment from doing [that]. So maybe do you know off the top of your head how many trees we've planted together so far?

Yossef:

Well, we have 62,000 in nurseries, two nurseries, and we’ve transplanted several thousand. But this year, the trees have reached a growth level where we can plant 14,000 in a single location. And so, we've been able to work with the community. Now, the other challenge is we deal with land holders, farmers who have a hectare or less of land. We're talking about areas where less than 10% of girls go to secondary school because of issues of transport and costs and so, very difficult places. And so for us to say, well, we, they'd established an area of 20 hectares in order to plant Argan and this is a congruent area – it's not five factors here. Three hectares there … That means that every household in this village gave a piece in order to create together 20 hectares. And so, yeah, so we're dedicated to the 60,000 plus, we're dedicated to planting 14,000 in that area. 

And so that's the thing. Now think about it; that is transformative in, you know, and the people know it. They know that Argan can live up to 200 years. Wow. And so they know that the future generations, inch'allah their generations. So it takes around say, you know, 12-15 years for an Argan tree to be genuinely productive but they know the life course of their community is forever shifted with this project. It's the only – so the High Atlas Foundation has helped build classrooms, clean drinking water systems, different aspects along the agricultural value chain, priorities to the people in agriculture and outside. And these kinds of projects are the only ones where we see tears at implementation, tree planting at this because the people know that life will not be as it was. So you know, the emotion, when a cameo truck of 4,000 - 5,000 trees arrives...There are tears because of the profound impact for the future that they know it means. So that's what we’re working to do with Fré to transplant from the nurseries. We've already moved… There are around 11,000 in the Taroudant Province already. And so in a new area where we're building up, we want to be able to have an Argan presence in Taroudant. So, we've already begun to move some of those trees there. And, [begun to] focus on getting these 14,000 [trees] planted, but we can do a lot more and we're working hard to get the water infrastructure so we can do a lot more.

Rue:

And when you say it, like impacts them, it's really life-changing – how does it impact their day-to-day life? These trees, it gives them jobs, it gives them financial stability? What does it do for them directly? 

Yossef:

That's a great question. So, fruit tree agriculture, the cultivation and the maintenance is typically in the male domain of production, traditionally, and so, now, the processing of the oil is primarily done by women at wages that are, you know, excruciatingly low. We're talking about 25 dirhams a day, you know, maybe two dollars and 60 cents, 70 cents a day. And it's, you know, I don't want to get too far away from the question, Rue, but I just want to say that it's done by breaking the shell. And so the nut is placed on a rock and another rock is, you know, hits the shell and it's cracked and then it moves down the sort of assembly of separating the meat from the shell and then and so forth. And so I remember going to a cooperative, you know, not too long ago and asking one of the women who work there, you know, ‘how long have you had that stone? The same Stone?’. She had the same stone for 10 years, hitting that and it's just, you know, try for an hour. This is, you know… here's the point: that we work in order for women to be the ones who cultivate the trees and manage the nurseries and build their capacities and co-ops, technical and managerial around that. And so, of the 13 nurseries that we currently manage, supporting communities and their management, four of them are managed by women's cooperatives. And, you know, these are all 4 out of 13. That's not even 50%, you're right. And we need to get to 13 out of 13, but I will say that, you know, I'm grateful for those four cooperatives and what they endure, you know, it's not like, ‘Yay, go manage a nursery’. First of all, it's incredibly difficult work and it involves leaving villages, which is also culturally not easy for women and girls to do, and there's not immediate income. And so, they are doing this without encouragement, oftentimes at home until that income comes. So they're dealing with all kinds of stuff to be able to, you know, for me to be able to say to you, ‘there are four nurseries managed by women's cooperatives’. And because of that, means there's four cooperatives with members who have struggled and achieved more than, you know, who have done and achieved  incredible things, unique in their municipalities. So, that's the thing, and we see our job too as bridging the gap between when they start and when income finally comes from the trees. And so, what we do in that regard, for example, we pay a monthly amount to the cooperatives and then we purchase the trees at, you know, at a cost that is profitable for them and allows them to reseed and maintain and have that monthly income going forward. And then we turn around and provide those trees to others.

And so with this, with Fré, we need to sort of work out that kind of arrangement which we have seen with these new nurseries. With Fré we want to work out that kind of arrangement which has allowed many other nurseries to be financially sustainable in this way. So where we first planted with FRE is in the Alhawz Province outside of Marrakech, in the Marrakesh province. And the eleven or 12,000 trees that we moved to Taroudant is managed by women's cooperatives, and those are the ones that we will begin to plant in Addar near their location, where the women's cooperative is. So, with the planting season, things move quick, you know, it's evolving. We have to get more trees down there to Taroudant to finish the 14,000 [trees]. We have a farmer-to-farmer program, which we've connected to this group and Taroudant with USAID and that's the capacity building component. If, you know, it's never just about building a nursery. It's about building our technical skills, our beliefs that we can do it. And that requires expertise and facilitators. And so there are programs that we also manage that help us provide that kind of support as well. Not just the seeds and infrastructure for water and all those things but the ability to manage all of that.

Rue:

Great!  Well, I hope for many, many more trees and cooperatives and infrastructure to do all of that to come. It was really, really wonderful talking to you and learning all of this. There's things that I didn't even know about. So it was great to speak with you and maybe, I really want to see – you showed me the courtyard earlier – maybe we can show people the courtyard, it's super beautiful.

Yossef:

Yeah, it's such schools in Marrakech. It is an international school and I'm actually Iraqi, my parents are, and so it's nice to be in the school called just that.

Rue:

Amazing.

Yossef:

Well, I will say this, that, you know, it's one set of the Fré skincare products that plants one tree, but that also monitors the trees with GPS coordinates. We take its height, its diameter. We do it twice over its first five years and that's really key. You know, if you were to also buy an Argan tree today, in a private nursery, you will spend on average – and we are very much into knowing what the private market is for trees – on average, it'll be about 17 dirhams each, maybe approaching two dollars, a dollar-eighty ($1.80), a dollar-ninety ($1.90) per tree. Now, why are we able to do a dollar a tree with monitoring? Because we grow them from seeds. And we retain that value with the community and so that really is….So just think about that; just to get the tree from a private nursery, we’d be spending double than what you are, and plus monitoring, you know. It's the holiday season. So, we've gone through the process of sending argon to Fré skincare and directly from the cooperatives. And so, that's the direction that Fré wants to go and it’s a beautiful direction. Not only are they planting trees with cooperatives, but they want to buy the end products from them too. And we found the quality and all of that standard to make it happen and Mickael and Michael are completely determined. So there's this note.

By the way, this is a reflection of their incredible dedication to this, but I just want to say that, you know, when you think about that product and you know, just remember that, it's the genuine article. It's Argan from Essaouira and it reaches an incredibly important level of health. And it matters here. That's what I just want to say. That product by its making and by its happy consumption, makes a difference in Morocco, a real work. And so I just want to thank Fré skincare for that, really to thank the Fré skincare community.

Rue: 

Yes. Thank you to you and thank you to our community and to everyone who's purchased a set and an Argan oil. I think you said it best that it really, really matters. So, thank you so much.

Yossef:

Thank you. Take care everybody. 

Rue:

Bye, take care.

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Many treasures are hidden within the coastal Mogador city, today known as Essaouira, which is characterized by its rich, multidimensional culture. This small city is a melting pot of Amazighen, Arab, Jewish, Muslim, African, and European influences, which give it a special place along the coast as one that is uniquely hyper-pluralistic.

Recently, the old medina of Essaouira has been recognized as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site. In addition to the fortifying architecture of the medina, the intangible heritage of the city has also been recognized by UNESCO, especially the distinguished Gnaoua culture, music, and rituals.

On Friday, September 17, HAF President Dr. Ben-Meir, with Laaribi and Al-Hamdouni of the USAID Religious and Ethnic Minorities Activity (REMA) team, visited Essaouira, originally called Mogador. The visit had two purposes: to meet civil society organizations (CSOs) that focus on cultural projects and to visit the Jewish and the Christian cemeteries where the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) implemented a cultural interfaith project in 2012-2013.

The team first visited the Christian Cemetery then the Jewish Cemeteries. The latter includes both the old cemetery, which is located by the sea, and the new cemetery located opposite the old one. The old cemetery is separated from the ocean by a single wall, and all of its tombstones are made of rocky stones that bear witness to the nobility of its history and authenticity. The wall of the Jewish cemetery is surrounded by trees planted by HAF with local community leaders and youth. They continue to grow beautifully.

Afterward, the group headed to Association Bayti, where HAF met with members of thirteen local cultural heritage CSOs. The meeting was opened by Dr. Ben-Meir and Mr. Elkadiri, President of Association Bayti. Each association introduced its mission, activities, and the domain of intervention. Those in attendance were authors, researchers, tour guides, teachers, and students who are intellectuals and active members in their city. They profoundly understand the unique culture that characterizes the “Argan city,” and they are eager to preserve its multidimensional heritage.

Dr. Ben-Meir began the dialogue among the associations by motivating them to put their minds together and think about a common cultural project that simultaneously meets their interests. Mr. Elkadiri agreed to facilitate the discussion among the guest associations with an open mind and heart. He started by brainstorming ideas about the project.

The discussion was very interactive, and each person shared their own project ideas. All of the ideas put forward are steeped in reviving heritage. They include:

  • Documenting heritage through scientific research
  • Establishment, facilitation, and growth of tolerance clubs at schools
  • Organizing rural caravans focused on archiving, raising awareness through theater, and environment
  • Documentation of cultural heritage through memory work, inclusive of engineering, art, oral histories, and heritage
  • Emphasis on theater as a basis to consolidate this memory
  • Legal advocacy for children, women, and disadvantaged groups

The CSOs developed a singular cultural project that embodies their collective vision. It is entitled “The Caravan for Essaouira Memory.”

At the end of the meeting, participants went through all the points and discussed the main ideas of the project. They successfully reached consensus and formed themselves into the “Coalition for Memory.”

The details of the one-year project are as follows:

Targeted Beneficiaries: Women, youth, and men

Main Objective: Advance the values of coexistence

Specific Objectives:

  • Revive Essaouira’s memory (a set of values that were disappeared through the archives and the research)
  • Activate the role of youth in raising awareness among women and children about their rights and position to defend their rights
  • Form a coalition of associations to create collective power

Activities:

  • Produce two plays per year
  • Make 4-5 videos by children called “Animate it”
  • Organize an exhibition for arts (murals)
  • Conduct scientific research (anthropology, archeology, and sociology)
  • Promote archaeological solidarity tourism
  • Organize intellectual seminars
  • Preserve natural life and heritage, including the conservation of rare endemic bird species and building a lake to accommodate them and the planting of 2,000 Argan, almond, and carob trees per year

Territorial Domain: 

  • Essaouira, Haha, and Chiadma

Partners:

  • Regional council
  • Municipal council,
  • Regional and collective councils
  • Regional delegation
  • League of private schools
  • Civil associations and youth clubs
  • Rural communes
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In the Tigmi Ntrga Village located in the Tisfan Commune, HAF has made notable progress toward achieving objectives for a UNDP-funded project to build agroforestry systems as a means of economic recovery from the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since the project began in June 2021, lines of communication have been established with key local authorities in order to expedite activities. The governor of the Taroudant Province as well as other local actors are informed of the project and its progress. The HAF team has met with the president of Tisfan Commune, its community members (with a particular emphasis on female community members), and local associations in the village to involve them in the implementation of the project and the achievement of its goals. The team also visited the site where a new nursery will be built.

Once these initial meetings took place, the HAF team began the procurement process in order to purchase equipment and supplies for the construction of the nursery. These materials were then distributed to Tigmi Ntrga.

Water infrastructure is one of the most crucial aspects of the nursery construction, and notable progress has been made in this regard as well. The irrigation system was installed in collaboration with local association members. In addition, a machine was rented to prepare the land for construction, and greenhouses were installed.

Female community members participated in a training on how to fill plastic bags and how to plant carob and Argan seeds. The HAF team also purchased Argan and carob seeds, and the women began the process of filling plastic bags in the nursery.

In addition, female community members of Tigmi Ntrga participated in an empowerment workshop for four days. This allowed them space to reflect on their goals, serving as a positive source of energy and motivation to continue working on the tree nursery project.

In Tifrki Village, located in the commune of Adar, the HAF team met with members of the Ikmir Association for Development and Cooperation. Together, the group visited the 20 hectares of land that will be planted in the future. During this period, the team focused on mapping the land, specifying the location of the well that will be installed, and made progress on authorizations necessary to begin digging from the Basin Hydraulic Agency.

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Abstract

The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) is an international development organization based in Morocco whose mission is to promote sustainable development. By supporting and empowering local communities on capacity building, clean water initiatives, pro bono legal aid, youth development, women’s empowerment, education, and health, HAF is dedicated to creating brighter and healthier futures for Moroccan communities.

FRÉ Skincare is a company based in Israel that focuses on providing essential skincare products for women, especially for women who lead active lifestyles. Moreover, for every skincare set that is purchased, one argan tree in Morocco is planted.

Overview

The Moroccan people are the center of focus for the High Atlas Foundation (HAF). As a result, HAF began its tree planting journey early in 2000 when they discovered that the Moroccan people wanted to grow trees and plants that meet their needs, such as a sufficient amount of food. To meet this need, HAF formed long-lasting and effective partnerships with other organizations who share the same ambition to achieve environmental sustainability. Organizations such as FRÉ Skincare have proven to be especially beneficial to the people of Morocco, specifically with respect to health benefits, environmental improvements, and women’s empowerment.

Since 2018, HAF is proud to have a partnership with FRÉ Skincare. Founded by Azoulay and Bensadoun, FRÉ Skincare is a skincare company that emphasizes giving back to the Moroccan community, specifically women. This is achieved through the planting of argan trees in Morocco, specifically in the Province of Essaouira. In essence, planting argan trees serves as the primary means of community building and increased women’s involvement in order to create brighter futures for the community.

Health Benefits, Environmental Benefits, and Women’s Empowerment of Argan Trees

Perhaps the first step in ensuring progress toward environmental sustainability is planting trees. From cleaner air, to increased biodiversity, richer soil, and becoming a primary source of food, trees play an important role in the prosperity of all communities. Argan trees specifically have a key role in the Moroccan community in terms of health benefits, environmental benefits, and women’s empowerment.

Oil is extracted from argan trees that have various uses. According to the bio contents of argan oil, it contains large amounts of vitamin E and can reduce harmful cholesterol and triglycerides. The oil may be used in an array of foods, such as salads, couscous, as well as amlou (similar to almond butter). In addition to contributing to a healthy diet, argan oil has numerous skincare and physical health benefits. Argan oil contains multiple antioxidants which can help against hair loss. It may also be used to treat belly stretch marks, chicken pox pustules, and acne.

In terms of environmental benefits, argan trees are also known to be a common hotspot for tourists due to the fact that argan trees have tree climbing goats! It is known that these tree climbing goats can comfortably climb up to 30 ft above the ground. These goats climb the argan trees because they rely on its leaves and fruits for their dietary needs. An interesting aspect to note about the nature of the argan fruit is that the raw argan fruit is not digestible for humans, but it is for these tree-climbing goats. As a result, after these goats consume and digest the argan fruits, the seeds are collected from their excretions. These seeds are then grinded to make argan oil which, as noted above, has a plethora of benefits. In a sense, argan trees are vital for livestock such as the tree-climbing goats, but one can also note the unique cycle of how argan oil is retrieved. In other words, the livestock, primarily the tree climbing goats provide a source of income for the farmers tending the argan trees and livestock from tourist visits. Additionally, like all trees, argan trees are a source of windbreakers, minimize erosion and landslides, provide wood for home construction and other construction uses, and are sources of shade for animals and travellers.

In terms of women’s empowerment, according to HAF, when argan trees are planted, they are most often cultivated by women’s cooperatives. With HAF providing training on organic certification, these women will now be able to cultivate, process, sell, and receive the entire profits from their own argan. This is extremely empowering for women as they will be able to generate profits and will be able to manage their finances without the authority or decision of a male. Moreover, it instils confidence in young girls who can learn that besides cleaning, cooking, and growing up to becoming mothers, they are as equal as men regarding making financial and household decisions.

FRÉ Skincare Partnership

On March 4th 2021, Dr. Yossef, president of the High Atlas Foundation was honored to have the opportunity to conduct an interview with one of the founding members of FRÉ Skincare, Dr. Bensadoun.

Born in Rabat, Morocco, Dr. Bensadoun holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Sciences Po Paris, a Master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University, and a PHd in Political Science from Bar-ilan University where his thesis focused on the making of the modern Moroccan National Identity. After pursuing his undergraduate and graduate careers, Dr. Bensadoun moved to Israel where he and Mr. Michael Azoulay co-founded FRÉ Skincare.

As noted by HAF, FRÉ uses argan that is harvested and processed in Morocco, and they are committed to giving back to the communities that make their world-class product possible. Upon hiring a dermatologist and with extensive research on ensuring that FRÉ Skincare products consist of natural contents, Dr. Bensadoun stated that the main goal of their company is to “build community” and figure out an effective way to “give back to the community.” Thus, after learning the unique and beneficial properties of argan oil, FRÉ Skincare started an initiative where with every purchase of a skincare set, one argan tree is planted in Morocco in partnership with the High Atlas Foundation.

When asked about the first thing that comes to mind in regards to FRÉ Skincare’s vision and achievement, Dr. Bensadoun stated that “as a brand, it is the community, my passion is to build a global community where we know we are making an impact on women’s empowerment and giving back to nature.” Moreover, Dr. Bensadoun expressed his sincere passion in supporting women and how integral their role is in the societal makeup of communities. He stated that “the Moroccan community has so much to gain from having the women part of society. It is not a secret that the condition of women can be improved. When women rise, society rises.” Dr. Bensadoun highlights the importance of women and how their role can be improved so as to achieve societal, long-term goals, which he integrated into the ambitions of FRÉ Skincare itself. FRÉ Skincare is a company with a strong foundation in empowering women to be confident in themselves, be it through exercising or through argan trees. Dr. Bensadoun states that “we want to inspire other people and say it is possible to combine great responsibility and great social impact.”

HAF’s strong partnerships with organizations such as FRÉ Skincare not only provides long-term environmental benefits, but it is educating the current and next generation of strong, confident women.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Dr. Yossef for conducting and organizing the interview. I would also like to thank Dr. Mickael for his time in sharing his experiences, thoughts, and hopes in the future of FRÉ Skincare. The interview was especially insightful and informative, and I hope that this article depicts the beauty of forming effective partnerships that will empower, educate, and create brighter futures for all.

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Organization Information

High Atlas Foundation

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AtlasHigh
Project Leader:
Yossef Ben-Meir
President of the High Atlas Foundation
Gueliz, Marrakech Morocco
$2,570 raised of $55,000 goal
 
31 donations
$52,430 to go
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