Thursday, 20 March 2014

In Morocco, UNIDO-backed women olive oil producers boosted by geographical indication accreditation

Women living in rural areas of Morocco not only face the challenges posed by a male-dominated society, but also have to survive in environments where basic infrastructure is a luxury. Nevertheless, they remain very active, perhaps even more so than their urban counterparts, attending to unpaid work that includes household and field chores, child-rearing and looking after livestock.

In recent years, the establishment of cooperatives has empowered Morocco’s rural women by helping them to succeed in making their own mark in economic development. Despite the problems they confront, such as marketing their products, women’s cooperatives have played a leading role in improving the conditions of rural life.

Women running businesses in underdeveloped and remote regions of the country have been getting help from a project implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). The project has used an innovative approach, combining technological, technical, managerial and commercial support, to help transform some of Morocco’s traditional products from artisanal to semi-industrial production.

As a result, women producers have become better organized, are making better use of local raw materials and are able to sell more of their products locally and internationally. The project has helped to economically empower women: they now create wealth and employ others, and their standing within their families and communities has improved.

As part of the project, which was financed by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation and implemented together with the national Ministry of Industry, Trade and New Technologies, UNIDO provided women’s associations and cooperatives engaged in the small-scale production of olive oil, textiles, and dried fruits and vegetables with support to help them improve management, access to technology and commercialization expertise.

One of the beneficiaries of the project was the Femmes du Rif economic interest group, composed of 192 women, organized in 10 associations and cooperatives located in the Ouazzane and Chefchaouen provinces of northern Morocco. The main activity of the Femmes du Rif group is the production, processing and commercialization of olive oil.

Recently, the group achieved a major success when the extra virgin olive oil that they produce was given protected geographical indication (PGI) accreditation. The status, awarded during Morocco’s main agricultural fair (Le Salon International de l'Agriculture du Maroc) held last year in the city of Meknès, will boost income-generating opportunities and help empower women olive oil producers in these rural areas.

As the UNIDO representative in Morocco, Jaime Moll de Alba, explains, the PGI accreditation, ‘Huile d’olive extra vierge Ouazzane’, will both reward and stimulate the group. “In practice, this accreditation will help the Femmes du Rif economic interest group to further valorize their extra virgin olive oil on the market, thereby strengthening their operations and maintaining the traditional craft specificity of their activities. This success is recognition of the group’s effective organization and the strong commitment of its members.” 

A geographical indication is a sign used on goods that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities, reputation or characteristics that are essentially attributable to that place of origin. The right to a geographical indication enables those who have the right to use it to prevent its use by a third party whose product does not conform to the applicable standards. Geographical indications are protected in different countries and regional systems through a wide variety of approaches – often by a combination of two or more approaches. For those who have the right to use the indication, an important potential benefit is that consumers understand it to denote the origin and quality of the product, and therefore may decide to purchase it, rather than a similar product. (For more information, see WIPO's Geographical Indications: an introduction)

For the Femmes de Rif group, the PGI accreditation will be a significant development. According to UNIDO’s Moll de Alba, “This recognition will contribute to the further development of the identity of the olive oil they produce and thus it will become more competitive on the market.” 

It should also benefit the Ouazzane and Chefchaouen regions as a whole, says Moll de Alba. “Such an accreditation helps to protect, control and valorize traditional products. It enables the creation of value chains whose actors are organized around products that enjoy a high reputation, thanks to their specific characteristics and production processes. These value chains play a leading role in the development of their host regions.” 

At the national level, the olive oil sector contributes up to 5 per cent of Morocco’s agricultural GDP and accounts for 15 per cent of the country’s total agricultural foodstuff exports. Morocco is the world’s seventh largest producer of olive oil, following Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria and Tunisia (FAOSTAT 2012). With a growing global demand for olive oil, the sector is a focus for the Plan Maroc Vert, the Moroccan government’s 2008-2015 plan to improve agricultural and agribusiness productivity. 

For more information, please contact: 

UNIDO Representative to Morocco
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By Charles Arthur and ZHONG Xingfei

Posted March 2014



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