Ylang Ylang harvesters in Madagascar continue the tradition of producing high-quality oil, while breaking the custom of unfair pay for arduous work—thanks to the doTERRA Co-Impact Sourcing Initiative in Madagascar.
Ylang Ylang in Madagascar
French perfumers introduced Ylang Ylang to Madagascar during the late 1800s, when the island nation was under French rule. Today, Madagascar produces some of the highest quality Ylang Ylang oil in the world through a refined process of distillation. More specifically, the people on the island of Nosy Be, off the northwest coast of Madagascar, work to grow, harvest, and distill Ylang Ylang oil for dedicated buyers like doTERRA.
The Ylang Ylang tree must grow for three to four years before it can be harvested during the peak months of December through March. Growers will pick the flowers once they have matured, which requires trees to be harvested several different times within a period of six weeks. On the island of Nosy Be, harvesters spend their days collecting baskets full of flowers, and deliver each basket to a weighing station. Based on the weight, workers are paid according to the amount of flowers they pick each month. After being weighed, the flowers are delivered to a distillery nearby and must be distilled within 24 hours after they are picked. Using a hydrodistillation process, the flowers are placed in boiling water, where steam produces the oil. It takes 24 hours to complete this distillation process, requiring workers to continually feed and monitor fires that fuel the distillery.
Ylang Ylang oil has several different grade profiles—Ylang Ylang 1, 2, 3, “extra,” and “complete.” Each of these profiles describe the amount of weighted molecules that come off during different stages of the distillation process. Although perfumers prefer to use oil from the early profile stages, doTERRA requires the “complete” profile to ensure that all compounds from the Ylang Ylang flowers are included in the oil. Once the distillation process has reached “complete,” the oil is ready to be sent out.
Ylang Ylang Growers
Because growing, picking, and distilling Ylang Ylang is a long, intensive process, it requires a great collective effort among several harvesters. One of the biggest struggles Ylang Ylang growers and harvesters face is receiving fair treatment, particularly when dealing with middlemen who find buyers. Without a guaranteed buyer, distillers are forced to sell their oil to the highest bidder, which typically results in an unfair payment. Because of price speculation, farmers without a sourcing partner often find themselves at a disadvantage—performing labour-intensive work, without proper pay.
doTERRA’s Co-Impact Sourcing Initiative in Madagascar
Through the doTERRA Co-Impact Sourcing partnership with distillers and harvesters in Nosy Be, those who are working to produce Ylang Ylang oil can receive proper compensation for their efforts. With doTERRA as a guaranteed buyer, growers are less likely to lose out on income due to price speculation and bidding. Along with fair compensation, growers who produce high quality oil also receive annual bonuses for the quality of their work. This provides them with more resources to help them expand their production capacity with new distillation machinery, or to add more growers to their cooperative, which allows for better organisation and higher production volumes.
After a long history in Madagascar, Ylang Ylang has a bright future through the Co-Impact Sourcing Initiative in Nosy Be. As flowers are distilled to produce the highest profile of quality and completeness, growers and harvesters will enjoy fair wages, improved production, and support from an organised cooperative.