New Heights for Nepal through Cō-Impact Sourcing®


High in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, a small group of women gathers in the early morning light. They carry hooked machetes and large woven baskets with thick straps. These straps will eventually rest on the tops of their heads when they are loaded with the day’s harvest—the dark green branches and leaves of Nepalese wintergreen, Gaultheria fragrantissima. These women brave the steep muddiness of the mountains on a regular basis to provide for their families and keep out of poverty. Now, especially after the earthquakes and aftershocks that flattened the countryside of Nepal, having work has become ever more necessary for survival.

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Far From Aid

Even before the first earthquake hit on April 25, Nepal was largely underdeveloped despite the best efforts of the government and other organizations to improve the lives of Nepali citizens. The earthquakes put other nations into action as they donated funds, supplies, and volunteers. Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, drew much of the media attention and also much of the aid. Little basic aid made it through to harder hit and more remote areas.

The Dolakha district was the epicenter of the second quake on May 12, where it is estimated that 99 percent of the homes were destroyed. The majority of Nepal’s wintergreen growers and harvesters call Dolakha home, and all were in dire need. Fortunately, doTERRA, working in partnership with CHOICE Humanitarian, was already involved in the communities there, setting up an exclusive partnership for the new Wintergreen essential oil. Spurred on by the knowledge of how much damage these villages had sustained, the executives quickly utilized the doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation™ to give immediate aid. They set up a donation fund solely for Nepal, and total relief efforts raised over $635,000. Those funds continue to be dispersed to the people, enabling them to slowly rebuild.

 

Continued Effort

While world demand for natural wintergreen is relatively low as it is an easy product to make synthetically, the demand for doTERRA Wintergreen is growing for both the single oil and for some of the more popular blends. Wanting to expand the available supply, executives found that Nepalese Wintergreen was an excellent candidate both for its oil and as a possible Co-Impact Sourcing partnership. 

However, with the damage to the distillation units and homes of the growers, the entire process of making Wintergreen oil was more difficult than before. Along with catastrophic loss, the earthquake also disrupted the basic transportation infrastructure in the area, making it even harder to reach the villages with the most need. However, the people were determined to do what they could to move forward with distilling Wintergreen oil. With the aid from the Healing Hands Foundation that gave them back some semblance of normal life, work moved forward and gave the people hope again.
 
In spite of the difficulties, Nepalese Wintergreen officially launched at the doTERRA 2015 Alive Convention as the new Wintergreen single. Going forward, doTERRA will continue to use the Chinese species, Gaultheria procumbens, in the blends and products that include Wintergreen.

The Wintergreen Community

This unique Co-Impact Sourcing opportunity comes in part because of the rareness of the plant. Wintergreen requires a cool climate in a shaded, forested area with certain soil conditions to thrive. For this reason, the plant grows exclusively in remote locations in the Himalayan foothills, making Nepal and China the sole providers of natural wintergreen for the entire world. It is only wild harvested, as no wintergreen is cultivated outside of the remote mountainous areas. 

Nepal cares deeply about sustainable harvesting and the communities where wintergreen is wild-harvested have formed Forest Community User Groups that collectively own and oversee forest areas. Similar to a community council, the group decides what areas of wintergreen get harvested, when, and who gets to harvest so the community benefits. The distillation units are also usually community-owned.
 
Tim Valentiner, Director of Strategic Sourcing, says, “The model that these community groups used to organize themselves, including even profit-sharing programs, has been amazing to see. This approach is fully aligned with our Co-Impact Sourcing model, which makes it a privilege to work with these communities. We look forward to spreading it throughout all the wintergreen growing areas of Nepal.”

Fun Facts

  • Wintergreen essential oil has a higher density than water, causing the oil to sink to the bottom when dropped into water.
     
  • Highly labor-intensive to produce, Wintergreen is one of the lowest essential oil yielding plants known.
     
  • Although Gaultheria fragrantissima and Gaultheria procumbens share the same therapeutic benefits and chemical compositions in the oil, they are distinctly different species with unique aromas and colors. Nepalese Wintergreen is pinker in color with a sweeter, earthier aroma.
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