Shopping at Cooperatives in Morocco

Shopping in Morocco can be a wonderful experience. From gorgeous handmade rugs and pottery to high quality organic argan oil and saffron, there are plenty of options for great Moroccan souvenirs or gifts.

However, it can also be quite stressful, due to the somewhat chaotic environment. Navigating the winding souks, haggling for a fair price, and trying to determine the quality and authenticity of an item can leave anyone feeling overwhelmed and confused.

Fortunately, there are places you can go to find high quality products and give back to the local community – something that is very important to us and our travel philosophy.

What is a cooperative?

A cooperative, or co-op, is a social enterprise where members share administration costs and profits. This ensures that everyone in the cooperative receives compensation for their work; therefore local artisans and creators get their fair share of the profits.

Cooperatives exist for most things you might want to buy in Morocco, each specialising in their field. Most are open to visitors, welcoming you into the workshops and giving you the opportunity to buy their products directly.

During our trip around Morocco we were able to visit cooperatives for several items, including:

  • Pottery – we watched the clay pots being made, and saw the kiln where they are baked.
  • Rugs – we drank delicious mint tea as we watched the women weave rugs and learned about the history of the craft.
  • Argan oil – this women’s cooperative showed us how they crack the argan nuts and grind them up to produce the precious argan oil.
  • Saffron – we saw the saffron plants growing in the ground, and tasted it mixed with mint tea.
  • Silver – workers at this cooperative crafted beautiful silver jewellery, and we learned the cooperative primarily employs deaf women.
  • Wood – we toured the workshop, and saw the beautiful, intricately-made wooden items.

Why shop at a cooperative?

There are many reasons to buy your Morocco souvenirs at a cooperative.

Perhaps most importantly, you will be giving back to the local economy. Cooperatives often employ groups of people who are under-represented in the workforce in Morocco; for example, women, the disabled, or those without a formal education. They offer great opportunities for people who might not be able to earn a living elsewhere. Cooperatives also often organise and fund social projects such as literacy classes or kindergarten.

Products in a Moroccan cooperative are usually better quality than those you find in the souks and markets. The products are authentic – not manufactured elsewhere and imported – and the creator is fairly paid. You’ll find truly organic argan oil, pure silver jewellery, and authentic hand-woven rugs – without having to rely on the word of an over-eager salesman.

It’s also more fun to visit the cooperatives! You’ll usually get a chance to see the workshop where they make the products, watch a demonstration, and ask any questions you have.

Making clay pottery at a cooperative in Morocco

However, be aware of places posing as cooperatives. Some companies use the word “cooperative” as a marketing term, but are actually employing women as underpaid labourers as opposed to allowing them to become members of the social enterprise.

If there are a lot of large tour buses and groups, chances are the tour guides are taking a commission. Usually, the more rural and remote, the better. This is where most of the workers live, and your money is more likely to go to someone locally.

Are you ready to start planning your trip to Morocco?

Take a look at our other Morocco articles for inspiration, planning tips, and advice.

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