The Permanent Mission of Morocco to the United Nations has presented a request to the UN to proclaim an International day for Argan.
Rabat – Permanent ambassador of Morocco to the UN Omar Hilale headed a meeting on Wednesday, February 19, on the theme “Argania, centuries-old source of sustainable development.”
Hilale organized the meeting at the UN headquarters in New York, gathering a group of representatives of international organizations from New York
The delegation included Carla Mucavi, director of the FAO, Marie Paul Roudil, director of the UNESCO, Werner O’Bermeyer, director of the World Health Organization (WHO), and Hamid Rashid, head of the research and development department at the UN department for economic and social affairs.
The Moroccan mission seized on the international gathering to request the formal founding of an International Argan day.
Argan tree, an asset for sustainable development
To reinforce his request, Hilale called attention to the Argan tree’s significant value for sustainable development in Morocco, as well as its cultural heritage.
Although it is starting to grow recently in other parts of the world, the valley of Souss, south-west of Morocco, is the original habitat of the Argan tree.
The Argan forest covers more than 71% of the Souss valley, maintaining Morocco’s position as the main international exporter of Argan-based products.
The Moroccan production of Argan includes edible Argan oil and derivative cosmetic products that are widely known for their high quality.
Many international figures in the entertainment field have testified the effectiveness of the oil, such as American TV reality star Kim Kardashian, and Welsh actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, who both cited the Moroccan product as their beauty secret.
The Argan tree represents not only a symbol of uniqueness in Morocco but also a significant source of income for the community living in the valley of the Souss region.
Sales of Argan oil and its derivatives, whether for medicine, cosmetics, or nutrition, represent over 90% of the region’s economy.
According to a market survey conducted by the Moroccan government in 2016, the Argan oil business is expected to flourish like never before in the period between 2016 and 2024, seeing a growth of 19.6% on the level of production.
The Moroccan government is aware of the importance of Argan as an important asset to the economy. The ministry of agriculture launched in 2010 the National Agency for the Development of Oasis and Argan Zones (ANDZOA).
ANDZOA collaborated with the High Commission for Water and Forests and the National Institute for Agronomic Research in 2019 to organize the International Congress of Argan.
The congress saw the participation of botanical researchers, forest managers, and economics experts, from Morocco and abroad, in order to bring international scientific expertise to the production, the treatment, and the irrigation of Morocco’s Argan trees.
The Moroccan government initiatives to preserve, and maintain the production of this national treasure are also reinforced by community efforts. The region has launched numerous NGOs and cooperatives to support the Argan business.
According to a study by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Morocco has 17,500 cooperatives working in Argan production. The majority of the cooperatives are located in rural areas and employ local women.
The cooperatives support local women, not only financially but also socially as they allow for more access to education and opportunities for entrepreneurship.
“Toudarte,” a cooperative in the southern region of Agadir, believes empowering women is one of the duties of the cooperative.
“Nowadays the Berber women of Cooperative Toudarte are in charge,” says the cooperative’s website. “The production of high-quality argan oil provides them an income that’s 20% above minimum wages. In addition, the cooperative takes care of literacy classes, medical care, child care, and interest-free micro-credit”
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) granted the agricultural system based on the Argan tree the status of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS), to acknowledge the unique method Souss valley farmers water and maintain Argan trees.
The agro-forest-pastoral system in Ait Souab-Ait Mansour, in the southern Chtouka Ait Baha province, works with a rainwater reservoir and is one of the 57 FAO’s World Agricultural Heritage sites.
GIAHS recognition not only takes into account the innovative local methods but also the cultural importance of the landscapes.
“GIAHS are outstanding landscapes of aesthetic beauty that combine agricultural biodiversity, resilient ecosystems, and valuable cultural heritage,” the FAO website emphasizes.
“They sustainably provide multiple goods and services, food and livelihood security for millions of small-scale farmers.”
In 1998, the United Nations gave the Argan tree the UNESCO biosphere status, recognizing its socio-economic characteristics and ecological value.
In 2014, UNESCO nominated Argan-based traditions and agriculture as an Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), among nine other Moroccan cultural practices.
The granting of the UNSECO ICH title placed the kingdom of Morocco 13 worldwide in terms of the number of internationally recognized cultural heritage elements.
Morocco’s initiative to register an International day for Argan follows HM King Mohammed VI set up of the new program for agricultural development “Green Generation 2020-2030” on February 13.
The Green Generation program seeks to encourage the emergence of an agricultural middle class and to make the sector a lever of socio-economic development.
One of the “Green Generation 2020-2030” projects is the planting of 10,000ha of Argan trees in the Chtouka Ait Baha province in the Souss-Massa-Draa region, costing around MAD 28 million, will benefit 729 people from seven communes of the region.