The Co-Impact Sourcing initiative in Nepal allows doTERRA to source high quality Wintergreen oil, while increasing the economic opportunity of rural harvesters.
Wintergreen in Nepal
Wintergreen essential oil comes from the leaves of a creeping shrub, commonly found in coniferous areas. In order to thrive, Wintergreen requires a cool climate in a shady, heavily forested area, with very specific soil conditions. Because of the qualifications needed to grow this rare plant, it is most commonly found in remote areas of the Himalayan foothills. The unique location and growing requirements for wintergreen make Nepal and China the sole providers of “wild harvested” wintergreen for the entire world. Though many people produce wintergreen synthetically, the highest quality of wintergreen oil comes from these secluded foothills.
To harvest Nepalese wintergreen, harvesters must travel through steep, muddy mountainside, carrying large baskets, as they remove wintergreen leaves from the shrub. Many of these harvesters are women, who leave their families early in the morning, and carry heavy baskets of wintergreen leaves on their backs until they are nearly overflowing. Full baskets are taken to the local distillery where large stills are filled to the brim with collected wintergreen leaves. The distillation process takes roughly 14 hours to complete—yielding a small amount of oil.
Because wintergreen is found in such rural mountainsides that are far-removed from any city, harvesters don’t have many options when it comes to providing for their families. Many of these families live in poverty, and due to their remote location, they have limited opportunities for income. The ability to find work has become even more difficult for all Nepali citizens because of natural disasters, which have severely limited economic opportunities.
doTERRA Co-Impact Sourcing Initiative in Nepal
When it comes to wintergreen, many people in Nepal are deeply concerned about sustainable harvesting. In the communities where wintergreen is wild harvested, there are organized community groups that collectively own and oversee the forest areas. These groups decide which areas of wintergreen can be harvested, when to harvest them, and who will harvest the wintergreen in order to yield the greatest benefit for the community. Within these groups, distillation units are typically community-owned. Using this type of harvesting and distillation system, power and ownership remains in the hands of the people. This system makes it easy to combine doTERRA’s Co-Impact Sourcing efforts with existing organized community efforts.
For doTERRA, one concern with harvesting wintergreen is to ensure that the oil is not synthetic. The Wintergreen Co-Impact Sourcing Initiative gives doTERRA the advantage of working directly with the people who are involved in the production process from beginning to end—to ensure the highest quality of oil. While the harvesters still maintain control of when and where the wintergreen is harvested, doTERRA’s involvement provides the guaranteed work and pay that the harvesters need.
The Co-Impact Sourcing initiative in Nepal allows harvesters to receive steady income, providing the resources they need to feed their families, buy clothes for their children, and send them to school. Because these people live in remote areas with limited opportunities, having reliable income has a significant impact on their lives.
Healing Hands Foundation Involvement
Even before the devastating earthquakes in Nepal during the spring of 2015, the country was largely underdeveloped, and the government was struggling to improve the lives of the Nepali people. After two earthquakes, many nations quickly sent funds, resources, and supplies to help those who were affected. Although many of the funds and much of the aid made it to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, the more remote areas were still without basic aid.
The majority of the wintergreen growers and harvesters in Nepal live in the Dolakha district, where almost every home was destroyed because of the earthquakes. Partnering with CHOICE Humanitarian, the Healing Hands Foundation set up a donation fund to help with relief efforts in these areas. doTERRA also helped to provide temporary housing tents for those whose homes were completely destroyed. Many of the distillation units were also damaged in the earthquakes, making it difficult to produce Wintergreen oil. The efforts of the Healing Hands Foundation and CHOICE Humanitarian helped the harvesters and other villagers to get back on their feet and move forward after these catastrophic events.
Through Co-Impact Sourcing, rural villagers of Nepal have the resources and proper income they need to provide for their families as they strive to live in a remote area with little job opportunity. doTERRA’s Co-Impact Sourcing Initiative in Nepal continues to empower the people by supporting local harvesters and using community-owned distillation facilities to produce high-quality Wintergreen oil.