Moroc­can ar­gan nut

A New Zealand cos­met­ics com­pany is help­ing pur­vey­ors of the ‘liq­uid gold’ of the beauty world to con­tinue their cen­tury old liveli­hood and save the trees bear­ing the fruit for their labour.

Element - - Contents - By Re­becca Blithe

It’s the new mir­a­cle oil: anti-age­ing, in­flam­ma­tion re­duc­ing, scar eras­ing, stretch­mark re­pair­ing. It strength­ens your nails, it glosses your hair. Short of cur­ing skin can­cer, this is the stuff you’re af­ter. A re­cent dis­cov­ery by western cos­metic com­pa­nies, for cen­turies Moroc­can or Ar­gan oil has been known to Ber­ber tribeswomen who have mas­tered the la­bo­ri­ous task of shelling, crush­ing and press­ing the seeds to ex­tract the pre­cious oil.

The story goes a lit­tle like that of the tiny acorn, ex­cept these are Ar­gan seeds and from them both mas­sive Ar­gan trees and global in­ter­est have grown.

The trees can only be found at the edge of a green belt in South­ern Morocco where they stand as the final pal­isade to the bar­ren ex­panse of the Sa­hara Desert.

De­spite their abil­ity to with­stand ex­treme heat and live for up to 450 years, they are en­dan­gered, due to en­vi­ron­men­tal stresses, the ad­vanc­ing desert and – strange but true – goats. The an­i­mals are adept at climb­ing the trees and tee­ter­ing on flimsy branches for the sake of a nib­ble at the ker­nels.

Of ma­jor so­cio-eco­nomic im­por­tance to the area, the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion are heav­ily de­pen­dent on the dwin­dling trees’ fruits for their liveli­hood.

But with sup­port from the likes of New Zealand brand Mor­eish, the women at the heart of the sup­ply chain are able to con­tinue in their work and sup­port their com­mu­nity to re­store the Ar­gan pop­u­la­tion.

A blend of Mor­ro­can oil and lo­cal in­gre­di­ents, Mor­eish was de­vel­oped over a four year pe­riod by API Con­sumer Brands. Se­nior brand man­ager Emma Dun­can says from the out­set, it was cru­cial to con­sider the so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal el­e­ments of work­ing with Mor­ro­can oil.

Mor­eish buys the oil ex­clu­sively from an eco-cer­ti­fied co-op­er­a­tive, the Tar­ga­nine Women’s Co-op­er­a­tive Net­work, set up in 1996 in South Morocco in an ef­fort to pro­tect the women and the oil which for a long time was un­der­val­ued and sold at road­side stalls.

The co-op­er­a­tive op­er­ates un­der fair trade prac­tices and is sup­ported in re­plant­ing Ar­gan trees to combat their ex­tinc­tion and in ed­u­cat­ing oth­ers about sav­ing the Ar­gan for­est through re­for­esta­tion pro­grammes.

The ben­e­fit of these pro­grammes is two-fold in that it pro­tects in­ter­na­tional sup­ply of the ker­nels and en­sures a source of in­come for the Ber­ber com­mu­nity.

Back in New Zealand, Mor­eish blends the oil with sus­tain­ably sourced lo­cal in­gre­di­ents such as manuka honey and ex­tracts from po­hutukawa, ki­wifruit skins and grape seeds.

Right down to the re­cy­clable pack­ag­ing, the com­pet­i­tively priced prod­uct is an ap­proved nat­u­ral skin­care, free of chem­i­cal com­po­nents.

“We wanted to keep our for­mu­las un­tainted by any of the syn­thetic and petroleum de­rived chem­i­cals that have be­come so com­mon­place in skin care these days,” notes Dun­can.

The pro­duc­tion of Mor­ro­can oil has al­ways been the do­main of women. While sup­port­ing the co-op­er­a­tives means Ber­ber women ex­pe­ri­ence a bet­ter qual­ity of life, Mor­eish wanted to repli­cate the phi­los­o­phy of giv­ing back to women here in New Zealand.

Each year Mor­eish cus­tomers are en­cour­aged to vote for a lo­cal women’s char­ity to which 50 cents from the sale of ev­ery pack is do­nated.

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