Argan oil and the Berbers
The production and consumption of argan oil has a rich history. When we dive into the history of Argan oil, we come out to the Berber women. The Berber women, the very first producers of argan oil, is where it all started thousands of years ago. They are the discoverers of the special properties of the oil. They simply started using the oil. It is also not for nothing that the name ‘Tree of Beauty‘, which refers to the argan trees in, was conceived by these Berber women. The Berbers discovered that argan oil is an oil with many uses. The Berber tribe used the argan oil not only for cosmetic purposes, but also for medicinal purposes. Today, the positive effect of argan oil has been scientifically researched and confirmed.
The traditional argan oil production process is very labor-intensive. The whole process – from picking the fruits to pressing the oil – took 22 hours. The production of argan oil traditionally takes place in the south of Morocco. After all, this is the only place where the argan tree grows. In this dry, warm and mountainous landscape, the Berber women gathered ripe fruits from the argan tree. They broke the skin by hitting the hard fruit with two stones. Splitting the skin required a lot of strength from the Berber women. After removing the pulp, the argan seeds were removed from the fruit. Each fruit contains only 2-3 seeds and this is what the Berber women were all about. These seeds are packed with argan oil. Before this oil could be used, a few things had to be done. A stone hand mill was used to squeeze the argan oil from the kernels. The substance was then kneaded to reveal the argan oil.
Argan oil production has been managed and carried out by Berber tribes for centuries. Traditionally, Moroccan women worked mainly indoors, but the demand for argan oil increased. This gave women an important role in the production process. Berber women started to establish Moroccan female cooperatives; these still exist today. These women work together to preserve the argan trees and ensure a sustainable production process.
These Moroccan women’s cooperatives have even more advantages. They are very useful for the social and economic status of the Berber women who live near argan orchards. The women who work in such a Moroccan cooperative have a source of income thanks to the cooperatives. This way they can provide for their families. These women’s cooperatives thus have a positive impact on the lives of thousands of families in Morocco.
Since the argan oil is of great value, you would expect people to treat the argan trees with respect. Unfortunately, not everyone thought that way. About 10 million trees have been felled in the past 100 years. At the moment about 20 million trees are still growing. Fortunately, these trees are well cared for. Nowadays it is forbidden to cut argan trees and even carries a heavy penalty. This does not alter the fact that the argan tree is still threatened with extinction. That is why UNESCO decided in 1999 to add this special tree to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Various other organizations are also trying everything they can to prevent further declines in the number of argan trees. Hopefully this will allow us to continue to enjoy the special and positive properties of argan oil for a long time to come.