Cooperatives of woman formed to produce argan oil and related products can be found across southwest Morocco. On our drive from Agadir to Essaouira along the coast, we passed thousands of argan trees full of fruit, signs for cooperatives, and billboards referring to projects benefitting women. These all appear to be cooperatives to produce argan products. While cooperatives seem to help women, in the region we drove through there was no other visible employment of any kind. As we drove down the road, we passed stand after stand where vendors (men) held out bottles of argan oil and gestured to us. I subsequently read that many of these are probably adulterated products.
My conclusion is that women need assistance beyond forming a cooperative. Each cooperative needs to connect with markets outside the immediate area. There are a limited number of tourists who drive through this region, and roadside sales cannot help much economically. Once argan oil is produced, it has to reach markets where it has commercial value and can be sold as a fair trade product to ensure that some of the proceeds reach the producer communities. Otherwise, women’s cooperatives of argan oil may become a dead end, producing a luxury product that is stockpiled until it goes bad (rancid, becomes too old) or until there is so much unsold oil that the price collapses.
Buy fair trade argan oil–put it on everything.