Oil Making a Difference


The production of argan oil by traditional methods.
Chrumps

Liz Waid and Joshua Leo look at argan oil - one of the most rare oils in the world. They also look at the women's cooperative businesses who make it!

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Transcript


Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I'm Liz Waid

Voice 2

And I'm Joshua Leo. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

A woman walks through a small store in Paris, France. She chooses a small container. The writing on the container says that it will make skin feel and look younger. At another store in Chicago, United States, a cook pours special oil on a salad for dinner. The people waiting to eat are excited to eat this food. And in Essaouira, Morocco, a group of women sit together. They are crushing seeds between two large stones. What do all these people have in common? Argan Oil, one of the most rare oils in the world. Today's Spotlight is on this special oil and the women who make it.

Voice 2

For hundreds of years, women in Morocco have made oil from the seeds of the argan tree. Morocco is a country in Northwest Africa. Some areas of Morocco are very dry. In these dry conditions, most plants do not grow well. But this is the perfect environment for the argan tree. Southwestern Morocco is the only place in the world where these trees grow.

Voice 1

The argan forest in Morocco is a very special place. The trees help to stop the spread of the desert. In dry areas, strong winds can blow away soil. But the strong roots of the argan tree hold soil together. The argan forests stop the soil from blowing away.

Voice 2

The argan tree can live for a very long time. It takes between 40 to 60 years for a tree to become an adult. And scientists say that the tree may live for 200 years to 400 years. But this long growing time can be a problem. When someone cuts down an argan tree, it takes a very long time for another one to grow and replace it.

Voice 1

In recent years, the argan forests have become smaller. Today, more than 1/3 of the forest is gone. Too many people are cutting down the trees for firewood. Also, people are using too many argan seeds. They are not planting enough of the seeds to grow more trees.

Voice 2

But the Berber people depend on the argan tree. The women in these areas of Morocco make a special product from the trees: argan oil. They have been making this oil in the same way for many years. Berber women pass down the method from generation to generation. The women take the fruit from the argan tree or gather them from the ground. Then, they take the seeds out of the fruit. When these seeds dry, the women pound them between two stones. The seeds become a thick paste. The women press the paste to remove the oil.

Voice 1

In the past, the women produced argan oil to use in their own homes. They used the oil in cooking, on their skin, and to treat sicknesses. Some of the oil was traded in Morocco - but it was not used anywhere else.

Voice 2

In the 1990s people in Europe began to hear about argan oil. They learned about the special qualities of the oil - that it was good for eating, and for skin treatments. Cooks wanted to use it in foods in their restaurants. Beauty companies wanted to put the oil in their products.

Voice 1

So the production of argan oil started to change. More companies in the West wanted the oil so they created new ways to produce the oil. They used machines to gather the argan fruit. They used chemicals to get the oil out of the seeds. Many companies started producing argan oil for people in the West.

Voice 2

But when all these Western companies moved to Morocco, the native Berber people were pushed out. They lost control of the argan oil business. The business was succeeding, but the local people were not receiving that money. The argan forest was also suffering.

Voice 1

So a group from Germany worked with the Moroccan government to help fix this problem. First, they talked to UNESCO. In 1998, UNESCO recognized the argan forest as a special place. They declared it to be a biosphere reserve. This is an environmental area that the world will protect.

Voice 2

The second step was to work with the Berber women. Moroccan authorities encouraged the Berber women to form cooperatives. A cooperative is a business that is owned equally by the group of people who work there. The women did form cooperatives. But they did not want to produce the argan oil with the new methods, using machines. They wanted to keep the tradition of making argan oil by hand. This was the way their ancestors made the oil. These traditional methods made better quality argan oil, but they took more time and work. As a result, it was still difficult for the cooperatives to compete against the big businesses.

Voice 1

So the Moroccan government did something to help these local argan oil producers. They applied with the European Union for argan oil, itself, to be protected. In 2009, the application was approved. The European Union declared argan oil to be a Protected Geographical Indication agricultural product or PGI. This means that argan oil is a special product to this area. In fact, it was the first PGI in the continent of Africa.

Voice 2

Being a PGI means that all argan oil in the world must be produced in a particular way. The argan oil must be produced by Berber cooperatives. It must be produced in the traditional way. This makes sure that the Berber women get a fair price for the oil they produce. It also means that when anyone buys argan oil, they know they are getting the best quality product.

Voice 1

Because of this, the Berber women's cooperatives can now continue to support themselves. Today there are over 50 argan oil cooperatives run by women in Southwestern Morocco. These cooperatives give women a way to help support their families. They can pay for food and education for their family. They no longer depend only on the work of men.

Voice 2

But the cooperatives also care for the existing forest, and plant more argan trees. They make sure that the argan forest will exist for many more generations. The cooperatives also create education programs for the women and members of the community. Argan oil is more than just something to eat or rub on your skin. It is a product that helps an entire community. It is oil making a difference.

Voice 1

The writer and producer of this program was Joshua Leo. The voices you heard were from the United States. Computer users can hear our programs, read our scripts, and see our word list on our website at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called "Oil Making a Difference".

Voice 2

If you have a comment or question about this program, you can e-mail us. Our e-mail address is radio@radioenglish.net. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye!

Question:

Do you ever use argan oil for anything?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
GelezniyDen
said on March 29, 2011

Hello everybody and good afternoon all people in the world:)Thanks all authors for interesting article.That interesting how much that oil cost? And it useful as olive oil as well?

Avatar Spotlight
vivianhuang
said on August 05, 2013

I think the Moroccan government plays an important role in making the difference.It is vital for them to get the PGI approval.Not only protect the traditional methods to produce argan oil,but also make a great help for Berber women to get a better life.
On the other hand,they must pay high attention to learn modern methods to protect and plant argan trees.Because it really takes a long time for argan trees to become an adult.
As we all know,people,cook and beauty company are eager to get argan oil.It must be a potential product.Argan oil will make a bigger diference.

Avatar Spotlight
thanhdung07121985@gmail.com
said on August 07, 2013

I have never seen and heard argan oil before.Thank for spotlight widen my knowledge.
Hope this rare oil will be continued producing more and more to export to many countries!

Luis Piedra's avatar
Luis Piedra
said on August 09, 2013

Thanks Spotlight by the programs of this week.

Avatar Spotlight
Dela
said on August 14, 2017

Argan oil represents an original traditional product well-known as having wide utilization and being exported from Morocco to many countries around the world. Therefore the precious argan trees should be protected, the governments must support women working in argan oil cooperatives including members of their families. All these people deserve to get a possibility of good education, the convenient medical care just as adequate financial compensation for their hard work as well!
Thanks Spotlight team for another excellent topic!

 

 

 

Avatar Spotlight
Hangcoi
said on August 17, 2017

Thanks Spotlight for interesting article. After read this topic, I also find some information about Argan oil on internet. It is oil making a difference. It make the better life for their community. Protect Argan forest and make oil with tradition method by Berber women are great way. It make fairness for local people, Local people have work to earn money for their family, the oil business also develop.