A look at the Argan tree, ‘the miraculous money tree’ that cures mainly ailments and uplifting communities that is taking the world by storm

The Argan tree. (Insider)
  • So resourceful is the argan tree that Morocco is set to have an international day dedicated to its honour. 
  • Internationally, the argan tree, is winning admiration and seen as a “true climate champion” due to its resilience to adapt well to harsh climatic conditions.
  • Nicknamed, “the Tree of Iron”, the argan tree possesses roots that can reach 30 m which allows it to draw water at great depth and to survive in arid and semi-arid regions.

Found in southwest Morocco, the Argania spinosa, commonly referred to as the argan tree is one of the most interesting and resourceful tree species in the world.

So resourceful is the argan tree that Morocco is set to have an international day dedicated to its honour. 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.

From a distance it doesn’t look like much but wait until you hear about its resourcefulness that is slowly catching the world’s attention by storm. Loved by humans and animals alike, especially goats, the argan tree has firmly rooted itself to the collective Moroccan psyche.

Internationally, the argan tree, is winning admiration and seen as a “true climate champion” due to its resilience to adapt well to harsh climatic conditions and contribute to sustainable development at the end of the day.

“Therefore, the Argan tree could also be described as a champion of sustainable development goals,” Carla Mucavi, director of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said of the tree.

Nicknamed, “the Tree of Iron”, the argan tree possesses roots that can reach 30 m that allows it to draw water at great depth and to survive in arid and semi-arid regions. These roots maintain the soil, fighting erosion and desertification which is threatening south Morocco.

A prickly and thorny tree, it produces small yellowish flowers, which then produce a fairly small fruit. The fruits take more than a year to mature and ripe.

The fruit’s seed is within a nut, which is further surrounded by soft flesh and a tough outer skin.

As soon as the fruit is ready, rural farmers actively encourage the goats to climb the trees for a good feed. There are several reasons why, key among them is the goats cannot digest the nuts. Instead, they strip away the skin, devour the pulp, and swallow the nut whole. The nut then passes through the goats’ digestive systems, softening in the process, before being passed in the excrement. The nuts can then be gathered and ground to produce the much-sought-after argan oil.

The argan oil has many beneficial properties and is used for both culinary and cosmetic purposes. The oil is used in the treatment of dermatological infections and other skin problems.

Health-wise, the argan oil has been found to be useful in the fight against diabetes and hypertension, as well as its ability to potentially immunize against cardiovascular diseases.

Perhaps even more important is the ability of the Argan tree to lift hundreds of communities out of poverty as demonstrated in Morocco.

The Argan forest covers more than 71% of the Souss valley, maintaining Morocco’s position as the main international exporter of Argan-based products.

Sales of Argan oil and its derivatives, whether for medicine, cosmetics, or nutrition, represent over 90% of the region’s economy.

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.

Morocco is now pushing an initiative to register an International day for Argan on February 13.

One of the “Green Generation 2020-2030” projects set by Morocco’s king Mohammed VI is to plant 10,000ha of Argan trees which will benefit some 729 people from seven communes of the region.

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