26 imagesIt takes 30KG of fruit and 15 hours of labour to produce just one litre of argan oil. Internationally, it sells at about 130$ per litre making it one of the most expensive oils used not only in luxury beauty products, but also as an artisanal ingredient on the chef’s table. Not surprisingly, it’s been nicknamed the “liquid gold” of Morocco by international markets. The oil itself comes from a seed that grows on the argan tree, an extremely rare plant native almost exclusively to Southwest Morocco. Empowering Women While the oil itself is mostly cold-pressed using machines, the harvest and extraction of the argan pip is still done by hand. Traditionally, Berber women would collect the fruits, and extract the pip from it’s hard shell using rocks to eventually make small quantities of Argan oil for their families. Today, a booming industry has empowered women in some of Morocco’s most impoverished rural regions. Whether it be through employment by international exporters, or in founding cooperatives, women are discovering a new independence as a result, turning traditional views about their roles in the household (especially in rural Morocco) upside down. Along with providing the majority of the household income in many cases, women are also gaining better access to healthcare and education through the argan trade. This of course extends to their children as well. Conservation The argan tree serves a vital role in Morocco: It’s deep roots hold down fertile topsoil, keeping it from eroding. Without the trees, much of Morocco would be non-arable. Essentially, they stop the Sahara desert from creeping in. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, the trees were being heavily cleared to make way for farmland, highways and homes with a devastating impact on Morocco’s environment. It wasn’t until 1998 that the argan forests were declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve. This was partially a result of the growing interest in Argan oil, and its financial potential. Currently, Morocco boasts around 800,000 hectares of Argan forest. The government aims to plant around 200,000 more by 2025. A very special thank you to those who have helped fund the on-going research and production of this work: Nana Shimosako, Jen Mahon, Dana Elemara at Arganic, Bonnie Winn, Amelie von Koczian, Niraj Shah, Joni Ammon, Hubert Ammon, Lynn and Mark At Havenessence, Alec Armstrong, Angel Bageneta Sustacha, Regina Young, Alexander Beiner, Sahar Jizan, Eric Da Gama, Sumayya Jamil, Chantelle L’Heureux, Risa Kusumoto, Bo Kim, Martin Young, Daniyar Uzakbay, Eric Gebauer, Ted Beck, Joèl Adrienne Amzil, Susan Hostetler, Gabriel Mulero Clas, Shunsuke Murao, Frances Dielmann, and Pattie Gebauer.
29 imagesThe Moshaweng Valley is an isolated area in the Kalahari Desert approximately 500 kilometres to the west of Johannesburg. Dusty, sand swept roads present the only access routes to the villages scattered in the area. Many of the people here are not indigenous but were forcibly relocated by thae government during apartheid. Against their will, they settled this barren land that is now home to approximately 30,000 people living in various tribal communities. It remains one of the most impoverished regions in South Africa. In 1991, the Frankfurt International School (FIS) launched a service learning project under the guidance of math teacher, Ambrose Kelly. At the time, a small group of students set out on a project to improve and sustain the education of Tswana people living in the Moshaweng Valley. Over the years, new schools and libraries were built, with book donations and other teaching supplies starting to reach the region. The project is continuing to grow and has since gained support from a number of schools globally as well as financial backing from a variety of organizations. “Education, then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, — the balance-wheel of the social machinery.” ~ Horace Mann