Goats in trees, did I see right? I know goats can climb, but never saw them high up in tree branches.
We stopped and went to see what this was all about. And learned that these trees in Essaouira, Morocco are argan trees and they produce nuts that the cosmetics industry loves. And the goats love them too.
So the goats in trees are there to reach nuts, but they cooperate with local Berbers: they leave the parts that are needed for the precious argan oil.
Essaouira, Morocco: goats in trees
The Argan Tree
Argan trees, Morocco
Argan tree is a prehistoric tree that only grows in Morocco, and in Morocco only in the region around Essaouira and Agadir. Unlike most other trees this thorny tree can live in dry climate and extreme temperatures but yet is threatened and today under a protection campaign. Forests have been cut by locals and too many goats are a threat too.
Yet the argan tree is very valuable for the local economy in Essaouira. First, it’s one of the very few plants that can survive in the desert and secondly it gives a lot of good firewood. – And, last but not least, it has vitamin rich nuts that you can make oil out of.
Argan oil is a health product that can be used as food oil. In Morocco they add it to salads, tagines or use it as dipping oil.
And they have always used it for medical purposes – for treating almost all diseases. Today argan oil is very popular in cosmetics industry world-wide. They add it to hydrationg lotions and anti-wrinkle creams.
Here you can see an argan tree (Argania spinosa):
An argan tree on a courtyard
Argan trees are twisted and look like olive trees but unlike olive trees they are thorny, very sticky. And they remain low too, their maximum height is about 6 m. Also the fruits of argan and olive trees look a bit the same.
But the goats, they don’t climb in olive trees. Here they are in an argan tree, feeding on leaves and fruits.
Goats in Trees
So Moroccan goats spend their days in argan trees, eating leaves and peals of the argan fruits that they love. The goats get 70 % of their food from the trees.
But the goats only eat the peals and leave the seeds that exist inside. They spit the seeds out on the ground and Berber women come and collect them.
It can also happen that the goats eat the whole fruit. In that case they poop out the seeds – and the women collect them.
Goats having their lunch in an argan tree
A closer look at goats on the treetop
This goat has found his own paradise
So the women pick the nuts from the ground and bring them home, to take the oil out of them which is not an easy task. For that purpose there are a lot of women’s coperatives in the Essaouira area and these women work in these coopereatives.
We took the road to one of these women’s cooperatives to see how it works.
Road from Marrakech to Essaouira
An Essaouira argan oil cooperative
Producing Argan Oil
Yes, here they sit all in the row and keep working with the seeds.
The first women in the row crack the seeds open to remove the nuts inside. The seeds almost look like almonds. The next woman roasts the nuts and the last woman in the row grinds them with a stone mill.
This all is made with traditional methods. You can guess it takes time, it’s very labor-intensive. It takes 30 kg of nuts to produce 1 liter of oil. And a lot of working hours. This is the way they have always done it and still do the same way.
Maybe a bit boring but of course they get valuable oil as a result.
Berber women producing argan oil
Grinding argan nuts in a hand mill
Moroccan Berber woman
Not all workers in this women’s cooperative were female. We got an excellent presentation in good English from this gentleman who also let us try and taste different oil products.
If the oil is cooked it becomes food oil and uncooked oil again is skin oil. You can add lemon or other scents to get different fragrancies.
Lemon oil was my favorite, sprayed on the skin! But skin care industry doesn’t sell this kind of argan oil sprays. No, they just add a few drops of it to their luxury creams. Because due to its high vitamin E content argan oil is increasingly popular in luxury skincare products.
I also learned that argan oil is good for the nails and the hair. You can either buy argan oil shampoo or make your own luxury shampoo by adding a few drops of argan oil to your ordinary shampoo.
Argan oil is becoming trendy as food oil too. It’s like a new kind of improved olive oil, but a more expensive one.
The food oil it has a nutty flavor, it tastes a bit like toasted hazelnut. And they say it helps reduce cholesterol and that you can use it against arteriosclerosis, rheumatism and other diseases. I want to have argan oil!
Yes, of course there was a shop too. But the bottles were too big to take home in a cabin baggage so I had to skip it. Instead I took home the complimentary argan oil soap from my hotel room.
Argan oil cosmetics, Essaouira
So now we know the story of the Moroccan goats in trees, eating argan fruits and helping produce the world’s most expensive oil.
This was new to me but on my trips I’ve seen another similar process of food production, animals and people working together.
Another Story: Producing Balinese Coffee
If you got interested, you can check out my story on Bali, Indonesia where the world’s most expensive coffee Luwak Coffee is produced with traditional methods, with Luwaks (or civet cats) eating and pooping out coffee beans.
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