The argan tree (Argania Spinosa) can only be found in Southwestern Morocco, which makes it extremely rare. The tree is very resistant and can live up to 150 to 200 years. The argan tree’s deep roots are the most important stabilizing element in the arid ecosystem. They protect soil against heavy rain and wind-induced erosion, maintain soil fertility, and have the unique ability to draw water from 100 feet below, allowing other plants in their vicinity to feed from their supply.
Taking action to preserve and regenerate the argan forest is therefore a priority, as much from an ecological point of view to preserve this last barrier against the advancing desert as from an economic perspective to maintain a source of revenue for the local population.
Because of the relative scarcity of these trees and their importance to the local eco-system, argan oil production has been subsidized and encouraged by the Moroccan government. Most of the argan forest is owned by the Moroccan government, but families who have traditionally lived in the region are allowed to practice their traditional harvesting there. In 1998, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) took action to protect the argan forest declaring it an international ‘biosphere reserve’.