I met Benedicte through social media at the very beginning of my journey as a social entrepreneur.
We both share the same passion for ARGAN TREES, thus we connected instantly!
I was curious to learn about her journey starting the Argan Care foundation, what drives us, what impact is she trying to make and also how we can help!
How did Argan Care come about?
I started the Argan Care foundation after getting to know Morocco really well after spending much time there. I did research for my master’s thesis in Morocco on female empowerment, and what impact Moroccan Argan oil cooperatives have had on the employees. I had already decided before I started my research that I wanted to create my own non-profit because I had dreamt about that from a pretty young age. The experience in Morocco allowed me to get to know the people living in the area I wanted to help really well, knowing exactly what they dream of to have a better quality of life.
The project we are currently focusing on in Morocco came to be when Dr. Zoubida Charrouf and her organization, Ibn Al Baytar, approached me. They have been doing development and scientific work within the Argan forest for a few decades now and are seen as real pioneers and true experts within the field. They needed a couple of partners to help design and fund the project. It was a perfect match, as I needed a local partner in Morocco I could trust, and had the same visions as for why we are doing this.
What kind of difference is the project making for locals in
It’s huge, especially because it has a long-term perspective. The trees we plant are a source of income to the locals as they can produce several products from them, including the famous Argan oil. Teaching the locals to take care of the trees and how to make a profit off of them in a sustainable way is huge. We also do initiatives towards gender equality and provide local women with reading and writing classes. The Argan forest is currently threatened by deforestation and desertification, which as a result if not protected, would have an impact way beyond Morocco.
What are some of the issues concerning the Argan trees and oil
production in Morocco?
I would say some of the main issues of the Argan trees are that they are rapidly diminishing! In order for Argan oil production to keep up, there must be made a huge effort to planting and protecting the trees. The local community must be involved in this. What’s the point of planting trees if local herders let their animals eat them? When community members get involved, they protect the trees like their own.
The women’s Argan oil cooperatives have been a game changer for local Berber women, but I still believe there’s a way to go before they achieve an optimal work place. Making Argan oil is very labor intensive and it’s not what the young girls dream of doing growing up. New machines and techniques should be developed to reduce the time it takes to produce the oil. This can in turn create opportunities for the cooperatives to produce new types of products based on the oil and make the cooperatives a more attractive work place for future generations.
What are your biggest challenges with the project going forward?
I’d say the biggest challenge is that all the work is done at Argan Care is done on a volunteer basis and can be a challenge to balance in a hectic every day life. The hardest job is to raise the funds we need for the projects that we do. It’s a time consuming job. However, seeing the change and the impact we do on the locals, and the positive contribution we do to our Earth, really makes its worthwhile!
What are your plans and vision for the future of the project?
We have lots of plans! All our projects are designed in a way so the locals can continue without problems after the project comes to and end. This is big to us, as we want the work we do to be sustainable long-term. We have plans to build a kindergarten in one of the areas we are in, allowing the children to be in a safe and learning place while their mother is at work.
How can we contribute to the project?
The best way is to make a donation via our website. Every dollar counts, and every dollar goes straight to the work we do. Right now we are $6000 short of our goal, which we hope to have raised by December of this year. It’s also useful to help us spread the word and to share with friends and family. Imagine if everyone you know donated $10? It would be huge!