Argan trees are these very dense fruit-bearing trees that grow almost exclusively in Morocco. While coconut is dubbed as the tree of life in most countries and cultures, Morocco natives will make a case for argan tree – the tree that is fast becoming their livelihood.
A typical argan tree can outlive humans at least twice with its life span of 150 to 200 years. Like coconut, it is a very resilient tree. It doesn’t require maintenance and constant watering. In fact, it can resist North African heat and drought with ease.
The argan tree plays not only a major role in the livelihood of the people in Morocco, it is also indispensable in maintaining the ecological balance in the country. Its root system is commendable, which makes it capable in preventing natural disasters such as soil erosion.
Trees are important in the reduction of carbon emissions, which is primarily the cause of global warming. The abundance of trees in our forests helps keep the climate cool by preventing the greenhouse effect caused by gas carbon dioxide that usually happens during photosynthesis.
This cooling effect causes other changes, particularly to the water evaporation process where water effectively evaporates into the atmosphere to allow cloud formation. Clouds help reflect radiation coming from the sun.
The Rapid Decline of Argan Trees
It is sad to note that in the past few years, there has been a rapid decline of the number of argan trees in Morocco. According to studies, more than 1/3 of the usual population of argan trees has been deforested. From the usual density of 100 per hectare, it is now down to 30 per hectare.
Part of the decline has been attributed to tree-climbing goats. Goats are attracted to the nuts from the argan tree. It’s a sight to behold, for sure, not only for locals but also for tourists who go out of their way to see these tree-climbing goats.
In the past, people use goats to harvest argan kernels. Argan trees produce argan nuts. Inside the nut is a kernel that contains argan oil, an oil popular these days for its many health and beauty benefits. Getting rid of the hard shell of the argan oil is difficult so the locals rely on the goats to eat the nut and then excrete the kernels through goat poop – an easier, albeit less savory, process.
But while they make harvesting the liquid gold inside the nuts easier, the goats trampling on the tress cause a significant damage.
It is not only the goats causing the decline of the number of argan trees in Morocco though. The popularity of argan oil is also a contributing factor. Sometimes, the harvesting and the manufacturing of the oil are not ethical and eco-friendly, which contributes to the death of many argan trees.
Locals and experts alike recognize how important this tree is not only in combating global warming and maintaining biodiversity but also in the continuance of their livelihood. This is why there have been efforts in improving the production of argan trees.
The objective of these experts is not only to boost the number of argan trees in the region but also to ensure that these trees have better argan oil yield.
Argan Trees and the Production of Argan Oil
Much of the efforts in preserving and continuing the production of argan trees are because it boosts the local economy and gives many women in the area a source of income.
The argan nut harvested from argan trees go through a delicate extraction process to get precious argan oil. This oil has recently been gaining popularity because of its multitude of benefits. It is slowly establishing a reputation as an effective anti-aging remedy and a wonderful hair treatment.
With its rich carotene, fatty acids and Vitamin E content, this oil can treat a variety of cosmetic woes such as wrinkles, fine lines and stretch marks. Moreover, its anti-inflammatory benefits also make this such a wonderful treatment for chronic diseases like eczema and psoriasis.
There has been a growing demand for this oil in the market. As a result, huge manufacturing companies have taken an interest in the harvesting of the oil – so much that they have started building organizations to not only employ local Moroccan women but to also rehabilitate the forests to ensure that argan trees won’t go extinct.
These organizations train these women in the oil extraction process such as roasting, filtration and bottling. They are also given education in managing and accounting. These organizations and cooperatives also support local causes such as reforestation of argan forests.
For a tree as precious as argan tree, reforestation should be taken seriously. It requires the efforts of not only the experts but also the locals. It is actually great that the locals recognize how important these trees are to their livelihood and to the over-all well-being of their environment so they are willing to be educated on the reforestation process and how to preserve the existing ones.