Why protecting the Argan forest is so important
The Argan tree is an 80-million-year-old relic tree species exclusively endemic in southwestern Morocco. The Argan forest constitutes a specific biotope that has been declared as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1998. The Argan tree grows very slowly, but it is extremely resistant. It can live for 150 years or more, and because of its deep root system, it can survive long periods of drought. Therefore, the Argan tree is often considered as an ultimate warrior when the desert is encroaching.
The life of people in the argan forest is strongly associated with the tree. The trees provide shelter against the sun and products of the trees are used for dietary, medicinal and cosmetic purposes.
Unfortunately, during the 20th century, the Argan forest has reduced by half and, in some areas, the density of trees is 66% lower than that of 50 years ago!
Income and living conditions, especially for women
Millions of people living in the argan forest and depending on it for their livelihoods. Argan oil production is mainly done by women. Employment at argan oil cooperatives give women living in rural areas in Morocco access to paid work, which most of them have not had access to before.
The income the women bring home is a vital contribution to the household economy and increase their self-esteem by being able to contribute to the household and society in general. Women in the area have previously not participated in the workforce and spent much of their time in the home. Women now have the opportunity to share their thoughts, problems and joys with each other during their time at work. They can help each other with everyday problems and support each other in tough times more than they have ever had the chance to before. The women have the opportunity to work themselves out of extreme poverty.
A sustainable forest is vital in order for the people to live good lives and be able to continue to live in the area they have lived in for centuries.
Soil erosion and desertification
The Argan forest of Morocco is threatened by overuse and deforestation. The forest is essential to the natural habitat. It helps to protect water resources and prevent soil erosion and desertification. UNESCO declared it a Biosphere Reserve in 1998 proving the importance of the forest in ecological and socio-economic terms.
The Argan forest is home to several animal and plant species. Rapid forest diminishing has major consequences for many species who will go extinct if the forest disappears.
Food and medicine
Oil from the fruits of the Argan trees can be used for cooking and for cosmetic purposes. In recent years, Argan oil has exploded in popularity globally after it was scientifically proven to have fantastic anti-aging effects and to heal wounds and rashes. Research also shows that Argan oil is good for the heart because of its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.