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News from the Center for Sustainable Agriculture (Director’s Blog Summer 2018 – Part II)

  • Dr. Elaine Solowey has been researching Argan, a tree native to Morocco, since the 1980’s. The Argan tree produces a nut from which a highly valuable oil, often called simply Moroccan Oil, is extracted and used in cosmetics and cooking. The tree grows wild in Morocco. Its fruit are gathered by Berbers after they have been first digested by a goat (don’t ask). Then the nuts are pressed by hand in order to extract the oil. Pure Moroccan Oil is sold on the market for $20-30 an ounce. It is used in many hair products sold in the US. The oil is only produced commercially in Morocco and, according to some studies, more Moroccan Oil is sold on the global market than can possibly be produced by known sources. This of course means that the oil is so highly prized that there is a lot of counterfeit oil being sold. The current Argan trees in the CSA Experimental Orchard were first brought to the Institute in the early 2000’s as part of a seed exchange with the National Agricultural Institute of Morocco. Though the Argan orchard has remained experimental for many years, Dr. Solowey has made quiet progress on the domestication of the tree. Recently, Nadav Solowey, her son and a member of Kibbutz Ketura as well, proposed to the Business Committee of Ketura, a study into the commercialization potential of the tree. In parallel, a number of companies in Israel began discussions with the Institute regarding the possibility of a joint commercial venture. The Argan project which had been dormant, like a seed waiting for rain, has all of a sudden sprung to life.

 

  • The Sonia Twite Shelter Garden, named for late wife of Robin Twite, our close colleague in the Institute’s Track II Environmental Forum, will encompass part of the CSA orchard, once used by the kibbutz for its domestic needs. In 2015, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority recognized the CSA experimental orchard as a shelter garden for endangered species, and in cooperation with Kibbutz Ketura, the garden will now be developed into an educational tourist site as well. This summer, plans were completed for the Shelter Garden, and the Kibbutz paved a gravel road to allow access for buses.

David Lehrer, Executive Director

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