The production of fair trade argan oil in pictures
The TDC supports the Tighanimine women’s cooperative, which produces fair trade argan oil in Morocco’s south, since 2010. There is much demand for this oil not only as a miraculous ingredient for cosmetics, but also as a flavour for cooking.
The TDC has sent a reporter to Morocco for a look behind the scenes of the production process and the lives of the workers, all of which are Berber women.
All photos: © Eric de Mildt for BTC’s Trade for Development Centre , 2015.
The Souss-Massa-Drâa region is facing many challenges, such as desertification, illiteracy and poverty in the Berber communities.
This is what Tighanimine, a cooperative mainly composed of women producers of fair trade argan oil, is doing.
“My daughter Fadna and I were among the first to be employed by the cooperative,” says the mother of Fadna, Maika and Aisha.
“I became ill and could no longer work. Now I am assisted by my three daughters.”
“Working in a structured environment has literally changed our lives by giving us the opportunity to provide for ourselves and our families.”
First, the pulp is separated from the core by hitting the fruit with a smooth stick.
Then, with the stick, the nuts are split to extract the kernel which will be mechanically pressed later.
After the crushing, comes the roasting process. Unlike kernels used for cosmetics, oil for consumption is obtained from roasted kernels.
One of the machines had a breakdown.
After working three years for the Tighanimine cooperative, these machines have no secrets anymore for Malika.
With her basket, she collects the tools required. She assesses, unscrews a bolt, gives a few hits, considers the issue, makes a diagnosis and repeatedly succeeds in restarting the machine.
Suddenly, she smiles. A note of joy in her voice and her eyes brighten up: Mission accomplished!
Malika sits next to small bottles of argan oil. She is getting married next month. Most of the other employees had to leave the cooperative after their marriage but this is not Malika’s intention:
“I have been working in the cooperative for almost three years. I won’t leave my job. I like what I do. »
Many women in the village would like to work in the cooperative and earn some money, but their husbands, brothers and fathers deny them this right. “Women’s work is not yet accepted or valued,” Malika confides to us.
Nadia, the designer, tells us :
“The story of the creation of this cooperative is quite extraordinary. I wanted to do my part to help the women of the region. I started by giving them literacy classes. During the sessions, they always submitted to me this request to create an argan oil cooperative. A long road, full of pitfalls, has been travelled since then.“
In 2011, Tighanimine is the first cooperative to receive Fairtrade certification for its argan oil, enabling its 68 women members to double their income in 2 years.
Tighanimine has been able to count on the financial support of the Trade for Development Centre (TDC) to improve its management capacities, develop quality control systems and create communication materials to better market its products on the Moroccan and European markets.
The collection stage is the first step in the argan oil manufacturing process.
From six o’clock in the morning, the women set off in search of the fruits of the argan trees.
They criss-cross the surrounding forests to harvest them.
They only collect the fruits released by the trees, thus respecting the cycles of nature.
The argan trees act as a bulwark against the desertification of this dry region.
The extracted kernels are carefully deposited in small baskets.
Each woman has her own basket and a cloth bag with her name and first name.
After weighing, at the end of the week, their work can be assessed. Each kilo of kernels brings in 35 dirhams (3.2 euros).
Also the presses are purpose-made: Some machines are specifically made for extracting argan oil for consumption and others are made for extracting argan oil for cosmetics.
Argan oil is used in cosmetics and in culinary products.
Tighanimine also supplies finished products such as soap and lotion.
Rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, in linoleic acids (an omega-6 fatty acid) and in vitamin E, argan oil is reputed for its medicinal properties and boasts titles such as “Moroccan gold” or “the beauty secret of Moroccan women”.
About 40 of the 68 women working for the Tighanimine cooperative attend literacy classes.
Thanks to their work and these classes, these women can become emancipated and can fight ignorance, discrimination and poverty.
Some of these women have even become the family’s main breadwinner.