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Jun 06.7

Meet our Supplier: Argan Oil from Morocco

Posted In: Ethical Buying

This past spring we traveled over 5000 miles to rural Morocco to meet our argan oil supplier, Argane Aouzac, and see how Fair Trade is impacting their community.

Argan Seeds

Known for its astonishing architecture, fragrant spices and blazing sunshine, Morocco is a bustling, multi-cultural country. Our destination was Tazghlilte, a tiny village nestled between the low, rolling Anti-Atlas Mountains. The local school had just finished for the day as we drove into town, and our vehicles were soon followed by a trail of smiling, waving children.

Visiting such a small, remote community can feel invasive. I was acutely aware of our “otherness”, but there was no doubt about it: we were welcome. Invitations to peoples’ homes for Moroccan mint tea were plentiful, as were welcoming smiles, handfuls of sweet basil and fragrant geranium flowers placed in our hair. Draped in beautiful, vibrant fabrics of every imaginable color and pattern, local teenage girls performed a traditional Berber dance in our honor. We would spend the next day drifting from home to home, village to village, meeting the many incredible women behind Argane Aouzac.


Founder Alban Colon de Franciosi first fell in love with Tazghlilte ten years ago. He was visiting a friend in the region when he noticed the abundance of argan trees—and the opportunity to stimulate the local economy by creating fair and sustainable employment for local women. He relocated, recruiting his son Jean to help him run the business, and set up an argan oil processing facility. The first in Morocco to be certified organic and Fair Trade, they now export their oil all over the world.

Our hosts first took us to see the largest argan tree in the region. You could spot it from miles away as we drove the dusty, windy road through town. Its huge canopy swayed in the wind, with plump green fruits ripening on each delicate leaf. Endemic to Morocco, argan kernels are cold-pressed to extract a rich, expensive oil that can be used for both culinary and cosmetic purposes. Argane Aouzac works with over 350 women in three villages to collect the fallen fruits, remove the flesh and hand-crack them to extract the kernel. They’re paid Fair Trade prices for their work, and their wages are handed directly to each woman—not their husband. Men in the region commonly leave to work in Casablanca shortly after getting married, only returning one or two months out of the year. As a result, women and children make up over 80% of the population—and the responsibility of caring for their families and the village has fallen on their shoulders.

Massive Argan Tree

Perhaps the most remarkable woman I met while in Tazghlilte was Fatima Lefhaili. Argane Aouzac’s local coordinator, Fatima is considered unusual in rural Morocco. Originally from Rabat, Fatima completed her university degree in social work and political science before leading the charge on multiple women’s rights initiatives. Since co-founding Association Tazghlilte, which acts in partnership with Argane Aouzac to facilitate community development, Fatima has been instrumental in ensuring that local women have a voice. “Fatima is the glue that holds this whole operation together. She’s our connection to the community,“ Jean told me, “She understands the women and helps us find out what their needs are.”

Fatima proudly showed us around the village, pointing out different developments made possible by the money they had earned through Fair Trade. The impact is undeniable—they now have access to clean drinking water, power lines and a garbage collection system have been installed, each family owns livestock, and thousands of olive trees have been planted in the region by Argan Aouzac in honor of Earth Day. But perhaps most importantly, women in the community have achieved a certain level of autonomy and influence since becoming co-providers.

Women working

Doorways, hallways and living rooms. Local women congregated in pockets wherever possible, chatting and cracking kernels with lightning precision. We (unsuccessfully) tried to emulate their method and crack a few argan kernels—it’s much harder than it looks! The women definitely enjoyed watching us try, and were so eager to teach us that it was hard not erupt in laughter each time we missed the mark. Next, we finished our day at their new arts and crafts center to interrupt a class of twenty or so giggling teenage girls learning skills like carpet weaving, embroidery and spinning. The crafts center provides a place for young women in the community to learn a marketable skill.

As the sun set behind the mountains, painting the sky with hues of orange, pink and purple, prayers heard from the local mosque floated through the air. It was a whirlwind day filled with warm smiles, laughter and hospitality, and one that I’ll never, ever forget. It was incredibly inspiring to see the effects of Fair Trade in action—it’s why we go to the lengths that we do to ensure we’re buying from an ethical, sustainable source. Argane Aouzac are just one of the Fair Trade suppliers we work with, and one of the many examples of why we dream of a day when all trade is fair.

Moroccan Road Sign

We use Argane Aouzac’s certified Fair Trade organic argan oil in our Ro’s Argan Body Conditioner and Tiny Hands Solid Hand Lotion for its moisturizing and softening properties.