What would you like to search for?

Our News

::: Project report :::
Morocco's argan and thuya woodlands

Essaouira province is among the most forested regions in Morocco. Important as a major source of livelihoods in the area, the argan and thuya woodlands are also under increasing pressure.
Find out about work to protect the woodlands and help local people.

Essaouira province, where the WWF hotspot is located, is among the most forested regions in Morocco with 43.4% forest cover. Endemic species such as the caracal live here. The area has several locations included in the UNESCO’s Man And Biosphere (MAB) initiative and has been identified as a priority site by the Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture. 

The Essaouira region has three woodland types: the endemic argan (Argania spinosa) woodlands, Barbary thuya or araar (Tetraclinis articulata) woodlands, and the junipers on the coastal sand dunes. 
Argan woodlands not only act as a buffer against desertification, but are also a source of livelihood for 2 million people in rural Morocco who depend on the trees for oil, fodder, honey, charcoal, fuel and construction wood. Although the argan tree has been protected since 1925 by a law which regulates its use by local people, the woodlands suffer from continued degradation from intense use such as fuelwood gathering and grazing.

The thuya or araar woodlands are subject to increasing pressure from the tourism industry’s demand for handicrafts made from the roots of the tree. In addition, the handicraft industry is expanding against a diminishing fishing industry, since fishermen abandon fishing to work as woodcarvers.

The coastal sand dune woodlands of Essaouira, which prevent the erosion of dunes and stabilize sand-shifting, are threatened by urban expansion and tourism development. 

MAB: UNESCO’s Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB) develops the basis, within the natural and the social sciences, for the sustainable use and conservation of biological diversity, and for the improvement of the relationship between people and their environment globally. 

Our work
In Morocco, WWF is working together with its local partners Association Chouala pour l’Education et la Culture (ACEC) and Enda-Maghreb.

In the project site Amsitten in the Essaouira region, a plan for the sustainable use of forest products - argan oil, honey, thuya handicrafts - will be developed based on a thorough assessment of the socio-economic and natural resource status. In addition, the potential for ecotourism in the area will be studied.

WWF and its partners are training local beekeepers and producers of argan oil to enhance the quality of honey and oil produced. Following these, certification process for timber and non-timber forest products in the area — honey, thuya handicrafts, argan oil — will be initiated. This certification is designed to act as "proof" that forest product harvesting is ecologically, socially and economically sound. To the local community, it is a way of ensuring that their careful and long term forest management is recognised in the marketplace.