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.
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.