WOMEN VILLAGERS JOIN FORCES

Profile:
Cooperative Tighanimine

Product focus: Argan oil

Location: Agadir, Morocco
Type: Small producer – 50 farmers (all women)
Fairtrade certified since: 2011
Contact: – cooptighanimine@yahoo.fr

Challenge:
As men are often the sole income providers in rural Morocco, many women are entirely dependent on their husbands or fathers. With unemployment hitting high levels in the region, families live in dire circumstances. In Tighanimine, a group of women of the local douar (a Berber tent camp) decided to take action. By creating the very first Fairtrade certified argan oil cooperative in the world they were able to lift themselves out of poverty.

Solution:
Because of the abundance of the argan tree in the region, the choice to start producing the oil was obvious to the women. The area is the only region in the world where the tree grows and the oil has been an imperative part of the local culture, mostly for in-home use. Recently, however, the western cosmetic industry has shown a growing interest in the oil as a key ingredient for luxury cosmetics.

The idea to set up a cooperative sprang during literacy classes the village women were taking, organised by Nadia Fatmi. The women’s trust in their teacher prompted them to ask her help in creating a cooperative. The set-up process, which started in 2007, took three years and Nadia was elected as its first president. In 2011 Cooperative Tighanimine managed to become Fairtrade certified.

Initially, the idea of creating a cooperative was not welcomed by the village men, who perceived this move as a “revolution” by their women. However, once the women started sharing their financial responsibilities, a shift emerged.

Cost:

The women reached out for external aid as the establishment of the cooperative required a budget of MAD 290,000 (approximately USD 32,500). Three quarters of that amount was funded by the European Union, the remainder (USD 8,000) by the women of the cooperative with assistance from the Moroccan Department of Agriculture. Subsequently, the Association Ibn Al Baytar helped the women purchase production equipment.

Result:

Currently, the cooperative is selling its products to the French, English, American, Italian and Spanish markets, although Fairtrade volumes are still low. However, by becoming Fairtrade certified, Cooperative Tighanimine has been able to set itself apart from competitors in the field. More importantly is the shift in the women’s mind-set. Not only do they have extra means as they have become financially independent from their men; their confidence in their own abilities has drastically increased.

The impact of the cooperative has not gone unnoticed. In July 2012, the women were rewarded for their work in the area of good governance and for the cooperative’s social and economic impact. (Read more about the award here). Another highlight was the democratic election of Nadia as the chair of Fairtrade’s North African Board – a major step in a male-dominated society.