The Argan Tree - the symbol of Morrocan - produces Argan Oil…the rarest oil in the world. The squat, gnarled tree is indigenous to the Atlas Mountains of southwestern Morrocan…on the edge of the Sahara Desert. It grows wild and once covered much of North Africa. While these trees are resistant to the dry climate, their numbers have dwindled and the tree has become endangered. Efforts to plant these trees in other regions have failed, which is why Argan Oil is so rare. The oil comes from the nut of the fruit of the tree. The nut is harvested by co-ops of Berber Moroccan women, enabling them to make a living while improving the lives of their families. The argan trees are located in UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) protected forests, which ensures reforestation and continued production of Argan Oil.
Argan Oil is renowned for its cosmetic benefits - shiny and strong hair, clear and soft skin, and diminished wrinkles. People are excited about its reputed anti-aging qualities. And food grade Argan Oil is celebrated for dietary, culinary and medicinal uses.
While the argan tree once extended throughout North Africa, it is now only found in the Agadir region of southwest Morrocan. The tree is endangered, but efforts have been taken to protect it.
The tree is well adapted to the harsh, dry climate it lives in due to its highly spread root system which enables it to draw water from far-reaching depths. These roots make the argan essential in preventing soil erosion, allowing for the replenishment of aquifers, and providing a shield against desertification. This is a critical role of the argan… to act as a buffer against northern advance of the Sahara Desert. The shade of the trees allows for the growth of grasses that would otherwise wilt in the scorching sun. These smaller plants also assist in the prevention of desertification, as well as provide food for grazing animals.
The argan tree is the life source of the people in the region. They use the tree for food, shelter, building materials, charcoal, firewood, and livestock feed. And they use the fruit to make oil. Loss of the tree would exacerbate the poverty in the region and create a mass migration to the cities. Life in the region would be unsustainable without the argan tree.
In 1998, UNESCO declared almost 10,000 square miles of southwest Morrocan, including the whole argan-growing region, to be a special biosphere reserve. The Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve is a protected area that fosters a balanced relationship between humans and nature. UNESCO has raised awareness about the inherent value of the trees, encouraged more careful grazing and stopped the chopping down of the trees. The people in the area now understand the value of the tree and they are protecting it.