The women of the Tighanimine Cooperative
The fact that Agadir in southwest Morocco has an abundance of argan trees was not lost on a group of village women in a literacy class organized by Nadia Fatmi. They also knew that their region was very poor, and they had no means of generating income for themselves.
Given that argan trees only grow in that part of the world, and that the oil had been a staple in homes in the village for some time, the women in Fatmi’s literacy class decided to do something to lift themselves out of poverty.
In 2007, they started the world’s first argan oil cooperative - Tighanimine - which became Fairtrade certified in 2011.
"It is the ancestral work of women in the south of Morocco," says Tighanimine spokeswoman, Afafe Daoud. "They are the only ones who can break the fruit and extract the oil."
Argan oil has become a key ingredient of luxury cosmetics, and quickly found markets around the world.
By forming a cooperative, the 60 women farmers of Tighanimine challenged a long-standing tradition in their area that a woman’s husband or father was the sole bread-winner.
"They were financially dependent on men, one hundred percent" says Daoud.
Initially, the men resisted the women’s initiative – that is, until the extra money started to come in.
"Little by little, when they began to see the economic benefits, they became more cooperative and even encouraged other women to join the cooperative," Daoud recalls..
Tighanimine’s Fairtrade volume remains relatively low, but the cooperative was recently licensed to sell their argan oil with the FAIRTRADE Mark. They have developed their own brand called Tounaroz and plan to sell in Morocco, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the USA. Moving up the value chain ensures that even more benefits reach the women in the cooperative.
In addition to developments on the market side, the cooperative was given an award by the Moroccan Network for Social and Solidarity Economy and the Pan-African Institute for Development for its work in good governance and economic development. And, Fatmi has since been elected to the chair of Fairtrade North African Board.
Daoud says it’s easy to see some of the effects Tighanimine has had on the women – such as nicer clothes for themselves or their children, or households that are better maintained. Other benefits, says Daoud, are less obvious.
"Women who work in the cooperative began to have more confidence in themselves, because they feel important in their home."
Read more stories of Fairtrade women in our piece celebrating Internationa Women’s Day last Friday.