Are those strange birds up in the branches? Nope, your eyes are not fooling you – it’s a group of Moroccan goats, just chilling on the branches and casually chewing on some argan.
This amusing sight greeted us on the drive to Essaouira last summer and we immediately begged our driver to pull over so we could snap a few pictures. The argan trees are unique to this area – although there are currently efforts to transplant them to arid areas in Israel in the UAE – and their branches are very thorny and twisted. It’s amazing to see the agility the goats must posses in order to hop up these branches and chomp away without becoming snagged or trapped up there!
The argan nut, and the oil it produces, is extremely important to the Berber people of Morocco. For centuries they have utilized it in various ways. Endless food products and cooking oils, beauty and skin care goods and medicinal products all come from argan and contribute significantly to the regions economy. Historically the goats have contributed to this operation by climbing the trees to consume the fruits, and then digesting and passing the hard inner nut. The nuts are then collected and processed into paste and oil which are used to create the various argan products that are popular around the world.
Our driver explained the constant goat hoof traffic can be very destructive to the trees over time, and is fortunately now being discouraged. These days most of the argan is processed by human hands working hard to remove the nut from the argan fruit. This interesting system of production can be viewed at the Marjana Co op – an all woman staffed centre making great argan products and providing a fair income to many rural woman. Definitely worth visiting and a perfect chance to treat yourself to some argan goodies at their extensive shop. http://coopmarjana.com/en/