National Geographic recently interviewed Tim Valentiner, doTERRA’s Vice President of Global Strategic Sourcing, for an article about frankincense trees and the harvesting and overharvesting pressures that currently exist throughout northern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. doTERRA was grateful for the opportunity to explain the sustainability initiatives we have been developing and implementing over the last several years. It also gave us an opportunity to talk about the current challenges and pressures that are impacting Boswellia trees, the genus of trees producing different resins more commonly known as frankincense.
You can read the article here.
Multiple Contributing Industries
While a great opportunity to explain more of what doTERRA is doing to preserve Boswellia trees, the title of the article unfortunately disproportionately targeted the aromatherapy industry as the source of overharvesting pressure on the trees. Although a significant user of Boswellia resins for essential oil production, aromatherapy is in actuality only one of several industries utilizing Boswellia resins for all their beneficial applications and uses. For example, many of the Boswellia species—particularly Boswellia papyrifera—are harvested primarily for incense use. Boswellia resins are also harvested for natural medicines, cosmetic products, other natural aromas and perfumes, boswellic acid extraction, flavoring agents, and even chewing gums.
With so many industries finding value in the precious resins, preserving these long-standing Boswellia trees will require multi-sectoral collaboration to ensure that they can be sustainably harvested not only now but for many generations to come.
Lack of Regulation
Somaliland, Puntland, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Eritrea are some of the most unregulated and difficult areas of the world in which to operate. As such, doTERRA has been working closely with local governments, particularly in Somaliland, to help encourage the implementation of laws, regulations, export licenses, and enhanced monitoring in order to help protect Boswellia trees. These measures are intended to help safeguard these resources by monitoring the harvesting practices and exports of frankincense resins in a more meaningful and effective way. This is one significant step we have taken to ensure that these trees can avoid undue stress and are harvested sustainably.
Research and Propagation
Another way that doTERRA is actively pursuing sustainability for Boswellia trees is through propagation. We have funded research and even created nurseries together with partners in various locations to plant and cultivate Boswellia saplings.
Propagation, as the article mentions, is the best way to protect the survival and long-term health of Boswellia species. This effort involves replanting new younger saplings but also assisting mature trees with natural regrowth. Trainings are also being provided to harvesters to help ensure that mature, older trees are harvested in a way that won’t overly stress or kill them prematurely.
We’re proud to be leading the propagation effort and partnering with organizations in a variety of methods that are helping to take meaningful sustainability work to the next level.
Ultimately, because of the lack of government regulation in these areas of the world, the future of frankincense depends on responsible and ethical companies proactively monitoring, training, and ensuring that overharvesting does not happen. This requires changes to many of the supply chains that have been around for generations, as well as increased transparency from newer supply chains. doTERRA is proud to be leading this effort by investing time and resources to understand current harvesting practices and creating solutions for a more sustainable future.
We invite companies to join us and take part in a collective effort to harvest these precious resins responsibly and sustainably to preserve frankincense for future generations.