Morocco: Expecting the unexpected. Goats in a Tree

Here is a picture of goats in a tree on the road between Marrakesh and Essaouira in Morocco.

Yes those are goats

Yes those are goats

see, really

see, really

Of course these goats don’t climb any old tree; there is something about the smell of this tree that particularly attracts them.  The tree is an Argan tree and used to produce Argan oil, which is a major export.

Food suitable for the goats is scarce in this part of Morocco, so the goats have adapted to climb the trees and eat the fruit.  Farmers originally encouraged this, since the goats don’t digest the nut and instead excrete it whole.  The nuts were recovered from the poo and then used in a variety of ways, from cooking to cosmetics.

However now the demand for Argan oil has grown considerably and it is no longer collected in goat poo.  However farmers still encourage the goats to climb the trees as a tourist attraction.  Many farmers are earning a good living by charging tourists for photos.

You can buy this oil virtually everywhere you go in Morocco; roasted nut kernels and sold for cooking (where it has a distinctly strong nutty taste) and un-roasted nut kernels sold for cosmetic use (because you don’t want your hair or skin to smell like something you cook with).

It is hard to find something that Argan oil isn’t promoted as a cure for, from dry skin/dry scalp, for use as a hair conditioner to a hand/nail cream, and virtually everything in between.  And it is less likely to have been recovered from goat poo these days.

A woman's co-op producing Argan oil on the road from Marrakesh to Essaouira

A woman’s co-op producing Argan oil on the road from Marrakesh to Essaouira

Certainly it has changed the lives of many women for the better, and women have set up co-ops to cultivate the nuts and to manufacture these products, often improving their lives immeasurably.

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