The Argan tree or the "Tree of life" as called in Morocco. Unesco has classified an area of 800,000 hectares of Argan trees in the southwest of Morocco, between Agadir and Essaouira, a biosphere reserve. This place is known as the only location in the world where the Argan trees grow.
The Argan tree takes its name from the Berber "Argân" but is also sometimes called the Moroccan olive tree, the iron tree, or even the goat tree. Indeed, the latter is particularly fond of its leaves and fruits and does not hesitate to climb there, despite the thorns on its branches.
The Argan tree is a symbol of life in Morocco. It is a living example of perfect symbiosis between man and nature. Perfectly adapted to its ecosystem, this endemic tree covers an area of more than 800,000 ha on the red soils of southwestern Morocco, between Agadir, Taroudan, Tiznit and Essaouira.
The Argan tree is the pivot of a traditional agrarian system, at the same time forest, fruit and fodder, make the purity of water and air, the fertility of the soil, and the life of flora, fauna, and men. It has allowed the development of a unique civilization where one always sails between archaism and modernism.
The Moroccan Argan tree classified by Unesco
The Argan tree, Argania spinosa, is a tree of tropical origin, which has spread outside its original geographic region to establish itself in subtropical Africa and mainly in southwestern Morocco. Perfectly adapted to the climates and soils of the region, its physiological and ecological characteristics make it the ideal tree to fight against erosion and desertification which very seriously threaten southern Morocco.
But other threats weighing on the Argan tree itself are becoming urgent not only to protect the Argan tree but also to reforest the areas from which it has disappeared.
The Moroccan Argan grove, classified in 1999 by Unesco as a Biosphere Reserve, while it is in continuous decline, inexorably reducing the potential production of Argan oil, at the same time the craze for this oil, renowned and appreciated both in Morocco and abroad that caused a considerable increase in demand.
The civilization of the Argan tree
Every part of the tree is usable. Its wood produces charcoal of excellent quality because it is dense and burns slowly. Very resistant to rot, it was used for the development of agricultural tools and for the construction of frameworks and irrigation networks. Its leaves and the pulp of its fruit are useful for the fodder of goats and dromedaries.
Fruit ripening takes place almost all year round. It depends on how heavy the rains are. They often appear after autumn rains, ripen in spring and fall to the ground in early summer.
The Argan nut contains one to three almonds, called Amandon which will produce the oil. They represent about 3% of the fresh fruit, but this weight can double during rainy years. Mature fruits fall naturally and are left under the trees to dry.
From the almond, the precious oil is extracted as for the cake; it is used as food for the animals.
Argan oil symbolic Moroccan local product
Argan oil is one of Morocco's most symbolic local products. Extracted from the nuts of the Argan tree, this oil with a thousand virtues is used in cooking, cosmetics and even in medicine.
To obtain Argan oil, the fruits are harvested, dried in the sun, and then pulped by crushing by hand. Then they broke the kernel between two stones in order not to damage the almonds. After that, they use earthenware dishes to roast the almonds over low heat to improve the color, smell and taste of the oil. After roasting, they are ground into a paste, and kneaded with warm water. This paste is finally pressed in order to extract the precious oil which will be left to rest and then decanted to get rid of the dark residue and obtain light yellow-orange oil.
The Moroccan Berber women have been using Argan oil for centuries in cooking and body care due to its many properties. Indeed, it contains 80% unsaturated fatty acids, a large amount of essential fatty acids and a high vitamin E content. It thus contributes to the hydration of the skin, the strengthening of the hair, the revitalization of the scalp and helps fight against skin aging due to external aggressions. Argan oil is also recommended as a treatment against acne and chickenpox and many other diseases.
Argan Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
Morocco and the United Nations celebrate each 10th of May, starting from the last year 2021, the International Argan Day. This celebration crowns the promotion of the Argan tree as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity and the ancestral source of sustainable development.
The proclamation of this international day follows the adoption of a resolution, presented by Morocco, to the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York on March 3, 2021. A resolution adopted by consensus of all the Member States and by which Morocco has mobilized the international community around the protection and development of the Argan tree.
It is international recognition of Morocco's efforts in the protection and enhancement of the Argan tree, in particular thanks to the launch of a global program for the development of Argan cultivation over an area of 10,000 ha.
"Protecting this cultural heritage is at the heart of the missions undertaken by the Kingdom of Morocco and the celebration of the International Day of the Argan Tree reinforces these efforts. This Day is an invitation to learn, share and celebrate this mythical tree, and a way to make its culture a lever for sustainable socio-economic development", says the Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations, Omar Hilale.
This UN resolution recognizes the contribution of the Argan sector in the implementation of the 17 objectives of the 2030 agenda and the achievement of sustainable development in its three dimensions: economic, social and environmental. It highlights the role of this sector in the empowerment and emancipation of rural women, the strengthening of the solidarity economy, and the eradication of poverty and human development through the support and promotion of the role of cooperatives active in the Argan sector.