10 May 2021, Rome: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) today marked the first UN International Day of Argania by participating in a high-level virtual event in Morocco that highlighted the importance of argan trees in preserving biodiversity and providing livelihoods.
Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General, said the event was “a great opportunity” for Morocco and for the dry zones of Africa to highlight the importance of the argan tree.
“The argan tree can help face today’s sustainable development challenges by strengthening the resilience and empowerment of rural women through the production of argan oil as well as agrotourism,” Semedo said. She added that value of argan goes beyond just oil, highlighting its contribution to “food security, nutrition, income generation and, more generally, the livelihoods of rural communities – particularly women.”
“The potential benefits of argan ecosystems include climate action, the fight against desertification, sustainable use of biodiversity, economic growth, job creation, the health and well-being of rural communities,” Semedo said.
The virtual event took place in Agadir, and was opened with a message from Aziz Akhannouch, Morocco’s Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Rural Development, Water and Forests. Other high-level speakers included Omar Hilale, Morocco’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, Volkan Bozkir, President of the UN General Assembly, Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General of the UN and Chair of the UN Sustainable Development Group, Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO, Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO, Anita Bhatia, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women and Yannick Glemarec, Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund.
FAO’s support to Morocco’s Argan GIAHS site
In 2018 FAO recognised the cultural and agricultural importance of argan-growing ecosystems in Morocco by designating the area of Ait Souab-Ait Mansour a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) site. This designation recognises not only the agricultural know-how and unique biodiversity of the argan-based, agro-sylvo-pastoral system, but also the sustainable management of natural resources and the landscape shaped over generations by the communities of agro-pastoralists.
The argan tree is an ancient species mainly located in the southwestern part of Morocco. Local communities make oil and other products from argan trees and farm on the land around the trees. Argan is the pillar of a unique ecosystem, and adapts perfectly to poor soils and arid climates, making it one of the best options to combat desertification and promote sustainable adaptation to climate change.
The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming May 10th as the International Day of Argania earlier this year in recognition of argan’s importance for these local communities. The UN resolution, submitted by Morocco, was co-sponsored by 113 member states of the United Nations and adopted by consensus.