International Day of Argania Date in the current year: May 10, 2024

International Day of Argania The International Day of Argania is a United Nations international day observed annually on May 10. It was established to celebrate the argan tree and highlight its importance to sustainable development in Morocco.

The argan tree, also known as argania (derived from its Latin name Argania spinosa), is a tree native to Morocco and Algeria. It has been cultivated for centuries for its fruit, which are used to produce argan oil. Rich in unsaturated fatty acids, argan oil is a staple in Moroccan cuisine. In addition, the oil is used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes.

The production process of argan oil includes cracking the argan nuts to remove the kernels. This operation has yet to be successfully mechanized, so workers, many of whom are Berber women, do it by hand as they’ve been doing for centuries. The process is long and arduous, but it is also empowering for Moroccan women living in rural areas, who form argan oil-producing cooperatives that contribute to the development of their local communities.

The argan tree plays an important role in achieving three aspects of sustainable development in Morocco. These aspects are economic, social and environmental. From an  economic standpoint, Morocco is the world’s leading exporter of argan oil. The demand for argan oil has soared since the early 2000s, when it was first marketed internationally as a cosmetic product, and the production of argan oil in Morocco has been growing steadily over the past years.

Argan oil production has always played an important social role because it provides job opportunities in rural communities in the argan-oil producing region and, as we’ve already mentioned above, contributes to female empowerment, giving women a source of income and a degree of autonomy in a patriarchal society.

The environmental importance of the argan tree lies in its ability to combat desertification of agricultural lands. Its deep roots help prevent soil erosion and desert encroachment, while the canopy of argan trees provides shade for pasture grasses and crops. In addition, the fruit and leaves of the argan tree are a major source of forage for livestock; they are consumed by cattle, goats, sheep, and camels. Finally, as an endemic, the argan tree is an essential part of Morocco’s unique ecosystem.

In 1988, UNESCO designated the endemic production area of argan oil, which covers over 2.5 million hectares, as the Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve. Sixteen years later, the practices and know-how concerning the argan tree were added to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In 2018, the agro-forestry-pastoral system in Ait Souab-Ait Mansour, where argan trees have been cultivated for centuries, was recognized as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System.

The resolution to establish the International Day of Argania was submitted by Morocco and adopted by consensus of member states at the United Nations General Assembly in 2021. The International Day of Argania is observed annually on May 10 and is actively promoted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

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