Speech president Cooperative Toudarte

On the occasion of a visit by representatives of L’Oreal and The Body Shop to Cooperative Topudarte in Akshmou, held corporation president Fatima Ihihi a speech on her initiative and her ambitions.

“On behalf of all the adherents of TOUDARTE cooperative as well as the residents of AKHSMOU village I would like to welcome our distinguished guests.

Now let me introduce myself: My name is FATIMA IHIHI, I am 33 years old. I am a native of AKHSMOU Village. I was closely related to my late grandfather who displayed a total love and loyalty to this village. He kept telling to continually visit the AKHSMOU village and to do my utmost best to help its inhabitants especially girls and women.

When I finished my studies in 2000. I visited the village AKHSMOU and I thought of setting up a women club for teaching girls of the village sewing skills and illiteracy course. When I discussed the idea with my father, he was very enthusiastic about it. He actually offered to provide all the necessary financial and moral help to promote the project from his position as the president of “Ain Akhsmou Association”

So our first step was to meet the village girls in an attempt to convince them to adhere to the club. To my total dismay and shock my proposal was not only rejected but I was cursed and chased for fear that I would harm and ruin their morals in the village.

My strong will together with my father’s support, I persevered and kept trying to make these young ladies see the benefits of the project. As a matter of fact, I managed to convince some of the girls to become members of the club and we started our illiteracy programme. As we started giving the first lessons, the village population began to see clearer and consequently more and more girls joined us.

My ambition was beyond the setting up of the litteracy and sewing club. I thought of creating a Women cooperative To produce Argan Oil, especially that this region is known for the Argan tree. Once again the project had a strong resistance on the part of the local population because of the mere fact that women in this region had never worked out of their houses. Moreover, for these women and their husbands, working side by side with ‘strangers’ is out of question. Once again, perseverance payed off. I succeeded in assembling 29 women and in 2004 we set The Women Agricultural Cooperative “TOUDARTE” that means “life” in Tamazight.

This life that I would inculcate and instill in women in this conservative village. At the beginning and because the cooperative was short of means, I invested my own money and my car to make that project a success. I used to buy the raw material and distributed it to the adherents and I even grilled the grains and I also used my personal car to transport the final product to Agadir to sell it. I had a dream at that time , my dream was to see the label of our village on the Argan bottle .

In 2007, we applied to member of the “Economical Benefit Group, TARGANINE,” and since then things have changed considerably as we benefited from the financial support of the “ National Initiative For the Human Development “ ! _ a national programme that helps associations to achieve their goals and fight poverty all over Morocco.

Thanks to the INDH financial aid as well the sale of our product to “TARGANINE” , we managed to buy some machines and other tools to produce Argan oil and in this way our revenues increased which enabled us to expand our project and build that local and more importantly, to become one of the biggest and most successful cooperatives in the region.

The significant development and success of our cooperative had a very important and positive impact on the local population. People here have completely changed their minds and membership requests flooded our administration. As a matter of fact we received more than 100 requests.

On the social level, women members in the cooperative achieved their financial independence and instead of being a kind of burdren on their husband, they now contribute to support the family life expenses.You are going to notice this significant change when you visit their homes.

I would like to add that this cooperative is not a project just to earn money but also a place where its adherents meet to discuss different daily life matters and benefit from illiteracy classes. Moreover, it is also a place where children have support lessons. It is also organizes professional trainings in cooperative management. And finally it offers different aids to the adherents in need.

I hope that I have given you an idea about our cooperative hoping that your cooperation will play a major role in further development and expansion of our project to the benefit of the Moroccan rural world.”