Strengthening of the Argan Biosphere Reserve (SABR), Morocco

©UNESCO/P. Dogse,
Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve

The Argan forest in South-Western Morocco has been designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1998. The Argan tree is the defining species for its eco-region, on which over 1,200 other plant and animal species depend, 140 of which are endemic. So far, the Argan tree has defied domestication. For centuries, the oil of the Argan tree has been a mainstay for the Berber people of the region. Since 1999, basically coinciding with the designation by UNESCO, the oil has met with an enormously increasing interest and appreciation in Europe and other high-value markets.

Currently, Argan oil at 300 US-$ per litre is the world’s most expensive edible oil. The biosphere reserve is also supported by the company Procter and Gamble.

© Chrumps/Wikimedia Commons
The production of argan oil by traditional methods

Most of this oil is harvested by the women’s “Argan oil cooperatives” which have been supported by NGOs, domestic and international development agencies. Together, these partners have made all efforts that the increase in export price actually trickles down to local people and that it preserves the health of the Argan forest, through a win-win-constellation.

Detailed analyses of household data indeed suggest that at least the first goal is met, that the boom has enabled

rural families to increase consumption and investment, in particular to increase their goat herds – yet with negative effects on the Argan forest. At the same time, families can send their girls to secondary school, so educational outcomes, especially for girls, have improved greatly.

In addition, the increased return on female labour might improve women’s position in intra-household bargaining.

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