The Argan Oil Story

The Tree of Life

Argan nuts

The argan tree only grows naturally in Southern Morocco. Its deep roots and small leaves allow it to resist the dry desert conditions. The nuts from the trees are harvested to extract an oil with a unique profile, rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

The precious oil from these nuts has been used for centuries in Morocco for cosmetic, culinary and medicinal purposes. The benefits from the nuts are so good, the local goats can often be seen climbing its branches to feed on the fruit of the argan tree.

The growing demand for Argan oil is leading to increased planting of trees, with consequent benefits for the environment. The argan tree provides food, shelter and protection. The trees deep roots help prevent desert encroachment and soil erosion.

This is why the argan tree is is known as “the tree of life”.

Production

Producing authentic cosmetic argan oil is no easy task. It is estimated that 30kg of raw argan nuts are needed to produce one litre of oil. The nuts are harvested by hand, once they have fallen from the trees. To extract the kernels, the argan fruit is dried in the open air and the fleshy pulp is removed by hand. The next stage involves cracking the argan nut to get to the argan kernel. The argan is an extremely hard nut, making this a time-consuming, labour-intensive process.

The kernels are ground and pressed by hand. The brown-coloured mash expels pure, unfiltered argan oil. Finally, the workers decant the unfiltered argan oil into vessels. The decanted argan oil is left to rest for about two weeks so that solids suspended in the argan oil settle to the bottom. The clearer argan oil is filtered again, depending on the required clarity and purity.

Only oil produced in south-west Morocco and using some artisanal (hand-made) production can be sold as argan oil. Argan oil was granted a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) in 2010. PGI designation identifies products from a specific region as having unique properties, and signals to consumers that they meet stringent standards.

Our Argan oil from Cooperative Marjana has PGI classification and is certified organic.

Rural Woman Cooperatives

Traditionally Moroccan women, especially those in rural areas, have not worked in paid employment. Over the last ten years, the development of women’s co-operatives for argan oil production has given these women the chance to earn their own income. 

Women's cooperatives allow Berber women to get a fair price for the argan kernels and ensure that they are a key part of the supply chain from harvesting to the completed product. The additional income provides them with a degree of autonomy in a traditionally male-dominated society and has helped many improve their economic and social status in the community. Many have used this additional income to fund education for themselves or their children.