The argan tree : a declining resource

The argan (argania spinosa) is an endemic tree of Morocco. It has survived since the tertiary period. It is the third tree species in volume in the country (after holm oak and cedar). Argan oil is derived from its fruits, and is used in traditional cooking and marketed in cosmetics. Several thousand people work in related local co-operative enterprises, often directed by women, and produce about 3000 tons of argan oil per year. The argan is thus a basic resource for the local economy both rooted in a long tradition and now exported world-wide.

Moroccans arganeraies, that is ecosystems supporting argan trees, do regress in area and in tree density, as a result of several pressures including the collection of wood for cooking. "The biosphere reserve of the arganeraie" (830 000 ha) was created in1998 by Moroccan authorities and has the UNESCO label "Man and the Biosphere". The reserve is close to the cities of Agadir, Essaouira, Taroudant and Tiznit, with the Souss- Massa national park as its heart. The reserve is also close to the Sahara and a buffer zone against desertification.

Actions of the Mohammed VI Foundation

The ‘Mohammed VI Foundation for research and safeguard of the Argan tree’ promotes the use of solar ovens, with the support of the Moroccan Ministry of Education, and the Association Essaouira Mogador. This generates multiple benefits: ecologic benefits (fighting the overuse of argan wood as cooking fuel), social benefits (reducing collection effort for women and children, and reducing exposure of women to wood smoke with related health benefits) and economic benefits (preserving the resource to produce oil and cosmetics, and associated jobs).

Actions were completed respectively in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2013 in the municipalities of Smimou, Takoucht and Ounagha with a total of 150 solar ovens installed. These ovens arrived in kit form, were constructed by school children and then installed in their families. Training for solar cooking accompanied the actions. Financing came from Morocco, from the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, from GDF Suez and from France. Since a solar oven helps save 10 kg of argan wood per day, the total saving is about 450 tons of argan wood per year.

Model actions

These actions are exemplary: by use of solar solidarity they contribute to the sustainable development of the region. The enterprise ‘Four Solaire Développement’ accordingly received the price ‘Enterprise and the Environment’ from the French Ministry of Ecology, Energy, and Sustainable Development.

Solar ovens (with greenhouse effect)

These solar ovens (also called solar cookers) use the heat of sun radiation within a box partially glassed and very well isolated. Temperatures reach 100 to 120°C, and even 140 to 150°C with the addition of a reflector. These ovens are more robust and easier to use than oven with solar concentration. Their maintenance is modest: cleaning glasses and replacing seals.

The ‘Denis Eudeline’ oven is an example of oven with greenhouse effect (weight of 10kg, PU isolation, faces in aluminum and glass, 60cmx60cmx33cm, accommodating one, two or three pots). It is available in kit form and built in about 2 hours.