In Defense of Frankincense
An Associated Press article from earlier this week warned of the overharvesting of wild frankincense trees. We were relieved to see global attention given to this threat. At doTERRA, we treasure the ancient and powerful frankincense resin and are proud to source it in a way that protects both the trees and the harvesters’ livelihoods. Due to our uncompromising care, we are confident in doTERRA’s continued supply of frankincense essential oil (which is steam distilled from the collected resins). However, we urge other essential oil and aromatherapy companies to swiftly adopt sustainable methods similar to those outlined below.
Since our founding in 2008, doTERRA has remained committed to sourcing each essential oil responsibly—taking even greater care with priceless frankincense. Indeed, our on-the-ground partner in Somaliland has worked closely with the Sanaag region Clan Elders and the multi-generation harvesting communities similar to those highlighted in the Associated Press article. He has chosen to collaborate with doTERRA, calling it “the only company I’ve come across that actually cares about sustainability.”
doTERRA’s dedication to conserving frankincense is such that earlier in 2016 we engaged a sustainability expert who will be working extensively with our partner Somaliland harvesters to carefully assess at-risk trees, prevent overtapping and ensure harvesting seasons never exceed eight months.
In addition to protecting frankincense trees and the surrounding environment, we actively support the Somaliland and Puntland communities. The doTERRA Co-Impact Sourcing Initiative provides frankincense harvesters with fair wages by bypassing brokers and working directly with the communities who grow, harvest and sort the frankincense.
In areas where money has little to no value, doTERRA even provides food and other commodities as pre-payment throughout the year in order to help harvesters feed their families. doTERRA’s food pre-payments, as well as the cleaning and sorting of the resins, are handled through a new network of small warehouses. This year-round access to food and cash significantly decreases the over-harvesting of trees in non-harvest months by decreasing desperation.
doTERRA also supports the community by paying Somaliland women to clean and sort the resins all while ensuring fair labor conditions and promoting safe and healthy working environments free from exploitive practices, harassment and discrimination. Because the cleaning and sorting of resins takes place directly in the rural areas where they are collected, rather than city centers, these women benefit directly from much needed income opportunities.
Most notably, in conjunction with doTERRA’s Co-Impact Sourcing of frankincense, our Healing Hands Foundation has already funded the construction two boarding schools for both boys and girls aged 7 to 12—the first schools of their kind—in the harvesting areas of Cildibir and Oodweyne, Somaliland. Championing female education is particularly meaningful since, according to UNICEF, only 44% of Somaliland young women were found to be literate.
The school in Oodweyne has been operating since 2015 and, due to its popularity, has expanded to serve over 215 students—even providing adult education in the evenings. In September, the newly opened school in Cildibr enrolled 200 students. The doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation also recently funded, with construction now underway, the Timirshe Puntland Health Services Center that will provide primary health care for Puntland, Somalia. doTERRA will continue building schools and medical facilities in the vastly underserved regions of Somaliland.
Ultimately, we consider our stewardship of frankincense, the trees and our partners a profound responsibility. We will not rest until frankincense forests are no longer in danger and these harvesting regions are rich with vibrant opportunity. We could ask for no greater motivation than that from our on-the-ground partner “keep doing sustainable, genuinely good work.”