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Argan: the tree of life


THE ARGAN tree (argania spinosa) is perfect for a harsh environment, surviving heat, drought and poor soil.

It is little known outside Morocco, and many Moroccans themselves have never heard of it because it grows only in the south-west of the country - roughly between Essaouira and Agadir, in an area covering 700,000-800,000 hectares. But within the area where the argan grows there are about 21 million trees which play a vital role in the food chain and the environment, though their numbers are declining.

The tree, which is thorny and can reach heights of 8-10 metres, probably originated in Argana, a village north-east of Agadir (off Route 40). It lives longer than the olive and requires no cultivation.

The trunk of the argan is often twisted and gnarled, allowing goats to clamber along its branches and feed on the leaves and fruit.

The fruit has a green, fleshy exterior like an olive, but larger and rounder. Inside, there is a nut with an extremely hard shell, which in turn contains one, two or three almond-shaped kernels.

When goats eat the fruit, the fleshy part is digested but the nut remains. Later, the nuts are collected by farmers to produce oil.

The production of argan oil, which is still mostly done by traditional methods, is a lengthy process. Each nut has to be cracked open to remove the kernels, and it is said that producing one litre of oil takes 20 hours' work.

Argan oil is slightly darker than olive oil, with a reddish tinge. It can be used for cooking and is claimed to have various medicinal properties, such as lowering cholesterol levels, stimulating circulation and strengthening the body’s natural defences. Internationally, there is some interest in its possible cosmetic uses.

The residue from the kernels after oil extraction is a thick chocolate-coloured paste called "amlou" which is sweetened and served as a dip for bread at breakfast time in Berber households. It flavour is similar to that of peanut butter.

The wood and nut-shells of the argan tree are burned for cooking; the wood is also used decoratively in some of the inlaid boxes which are made in Essaouira. The roots of the argan tree grow deep in search of water, helping to bind the soil and prevent erosion.

Households that make their own argan oil tend to use if for general cooking. Because it is expensive to buy, others may use it more sparingly - flavouring salads, for example. A few drops stirred into couscous just before serving give it a rich, nutty aroma.

Argan production is still basically a cottage industry, managed largely by women. But many people believe that if the oil became better known it could provide more employment in the region as well as enhancing the environment.

Bottles of what pass for argan oil are sold along the roadsides between Essouira and Agadir, but is difficult to tell if they are genuine. Because the oil commands a high price, sellers are often tempted to dilute it with cheaper oils. Some bottles simply contain olive oil, coloured with paprika or other substances.

More about Argan

Argan website

The Argan Foundation 
(La Fondation pour l'Arganier)

Prized Moroccan argan oil faces cloudy future
Reuters, 6 January 2006

Ardent for Argan 
by Kitty Morse. Saudi Aramco World, September 2004

Solving Pieces of the Argan Puzzle 
Profile of argan researcher Zoubida Charrouf. IDRC Reports, 23 November 2003.

The argan tree, argan oil and women's co-operatives in southwestern Morocco
UNESCO report

Argan oil 
Geographical indications case study by David Luth, December 2004

Latest oil in American pantry is Argan oil from Morocco
Florence Fabricant (New-York Times, 3 January, 2001)

Ethnoeconomical, Ethnomedical, and Phytochemical Study of Argania Spinosa  
Review article, Journal of Ethnopharmacology [PDF file]

Argan trees in Algeria 

The following are papers from a conference - Journees d'etude sur l'arganier - sponsored by Environment Ministry and the held in Essaouira, September 1995. The papers are all in French:

La problématique de l'Arganier
Mr Nour-Eddinne Ottmani

Le rôle socio-économique et environnemental de l'Arganier
Mr Mohamed Benzyane

Eléments préliminaires d'une monographie de quelques pratiques rituelles en rapport avec les Ayt Yassîn (Haha)
Mr Abdelghani Maghnia

Les Systèmes Agro-sylvo-pastoraux de l'Arganier Approche Typologique en vue de leur mise en valeur
Mr Faiçal Benchekroun

Biologie de l'Arganier
Mme Rachida Nouaim

Ecologie et cartographie des groupements végétaux d'Anzi
Mr Fouad Msanda

Valorisation des produits de l'Arganier
Mme Zoubida Charrouf

Bilan des actions et programmes en faveur de l'Arganier et perspectives
Mr Rémi Chaussod

Projet de la coopération allemande
Mr Frank Hayer

Réhabilitation des Phytocenoses du Parc National de Souss-Massa
Mr Ribi Mohamed

Expériences de l'Association des Amis de l'Arganier (3A)
Mr Abdelkader El Othmani

Présentation du projet financé par le Canada
Mr Roy Michel

Recommandations des Journées d'Etudes sur l'Arganier


In the Morocco section



targanine2.gif (7465 bytes)

Targanine is a group of women's co-operatives engaged in the production of argan oil. Their aims are:

To improve and certify the quality of argan oil.

To preserve the environment through replanting of argan trees.

To ensure satisfactory working conditions.

To encourage sustainable development.


Products include oil, amlou and cosmetics ...


Argan3.com (Aziz Alaoui)
Tel. (514) 482 2079
Fax. (514) 489 7718


Angle rue de Marrakech et rue du Dispensaire 
Immeuble Ouchen N° 12
1er étage Quartier Industriel 80 000 Agadir, Maroc
Tel:+212 (0)48 22 57 66 


La Maison de l'Argan
443, boulevard Alfred Daney
33041 Bordeaux Cedex
Tél: +33 (0)5 56 43 56 43

Maroc Coop & Co
(Protomedia Air Group Intl.
Les lointes Bastides
84160 Lourmarin
Mobile: 06 08 33 20 78

Centre Cralis Zone de Pentaparc
BP 33619
56036 Vannes 

Tel: 02 97 47 29 76


Mizyen Entreprises
Toronto Canada
Tel +1 416 769 8041


Lingo AS
P.b.8935 Youngstorget
NO-0028 Oslo
Tel: +47 47 055 802


Nutrition Act
Nutrition Act Co. LTD.154 Takonawa, menato-ko.
Tokyo 1080074 Japon
Tel: +81 354 757 313


Amal annamaria stoop
Groenplaats 40, Antwerp, Belgium
Tel: +32 486 52 92 75




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Last revised on 28 June, 2009