While most companies selling argan oil and argan-based products claim to purchase their products from women's cooperatives in Morocco, it is important to note that all cooperatives are not alike.
On each of my visits to Morocco, I spend lots of time in the rural south visiting argan suppliers in an effort to better understand the situation there. Along with numerous success stories, I have unfortunately also encountered corruption, groups of women unable to sufficiently organize themselves in order to sustain a business, cooperatives and companies producing poor quality oil and selling it at a lower price, cooperatives run by men who do not pay the women who work there a fair wage, as well as larger conglomerates capitalizing the marketplace and squeezing out less organized/well financed groups of women.
On this visit, I had the pleasure of meeting Professor Charouff, who was responsible for establishing the first women-run cooperative for the production of argan oil in 1999. During our meeting we discussed the current state of the argan oil industry and the accompanying challenges and opportunities. Most alarming is the fact that machines have been introduced to do the work of cracking the nuts. While preserving companies' bottom line by producing oil at a lower cost, these machines will eliminate jobs for the women of the region.
It will be difficult to determine whether the oil you are purchasing is actually cracked by hand or machine, as it is hard to know whether the oil is organic, or produced using best practices. At Kahina Giving Beauty we personally source certified Fair Trade organic argan oil and carefully monitor harvesting and extraction techniques. This ensures the highest quality oil and a fair wage for the women who work to extract the oil at the heart of our line.