Who: Abn Albaytar
One of the largest networks of female cooperatives for sending Argan Oil into the world
The roads running through the Argan Oil villages range from Rabat to Agadir, from the forest of Messguina Imsguin to the Taitmatine cooperative, from the village of Tiout to the top of the southern snow capped Atlas. These are the places where you can go on a trip to visit the women who process argan oil, one of the most amazing stories of development of female entrepreneurship. Today, in the woods of Mesguina, drums are beating, people are eating and singing: the Ibn al Baytar Association is celebrating 20 years.
For travelers, the argan tree is in fashion: but only one is the original Argan Oil route.
It's called the Route de Mesguina, it has been traced by the three guides who work for the cooperatives and they are training other young people, on routes from one to three days, with six hours of walking per day for those who want to complete the tour on foot.
In the villages, women sell creams and oils in the boutiques, they greet the perfumed tourists at the Eco Lodge or “chez l'habitant" and they cook and they teach them their traditions.
The idea of forming women's cooperatives to cultivate argan oil was created by Zoubida Charrouf. When Amal was founded, the first cooperative for the production of argan oil, in the province of Essaouira, only widows dared leave home, driven by the need to work.
Since then, Zoubida and the cooperatives which were gradually formed participated in conferences dedicated to the environment and the gene pool, and signed agreements with partners around the world; they planted 1,000 trees together with school children, they created vegetable gardens with Slow Food Maroc, they rebuilt dozens of “arganiers” (argan tree plantations), like the one in Messguina, and have innovated the agricultural production processes.
Today thousands of women cultivate, process and ship products all over the world, they promote and organise the supply chain, with a potential that has allowed the socio-economic development of the region and the autonomy of rural women. The efforts of the women in the first “arganier” enabled enhancement of the main product, which has achieved international recognition as the best cosmetic ingredient on the planet, right up to achieving the status of brands: PGI quality (first in Africa), Bio, Fair.
Their intuition proved correct: caring for and scientifically multiplying the plants has developed an economy with important repercussions, landowners are encouraged to participate, everyone is aware of the importance of plants to climate change resilience.
The Al Baytar Association is now using the success of Tighanimine, the main cooperative, to help the development of other cooperatives and of the region. And it is right out of the forest of Mesguina that the forecasts for the future have started: planting new argan trees with the help of the Government, studying the use of native grasses and other crops from ancient farming traditions.