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 growing requirements for wintergreen make Nepal and China the sole providers of “wild harvested” wintergreen in the world. Though many companies produce wintergreen synthetically, the highest quality natural wintergreen oil comes from these secluded foothills.
To harvest Nepalese wintergreen, harvesters must travel through steep, muddy mountainsides, removing 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.
Harvesters in these rural areas don’t have many options when it comes to providing for their families. The ability to find work has become even more difficult in recent years due to natural disasters, which have severely limited economic opportunities.
doTERRA Co-Impact Sourcing Initiative in Nepal
Many people in Nepal are deeply concerned about sustainable wintergreen 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 and ensure that the plants are properly cared for. 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 is a great fit for doTERRA’s Co-Impact Sourcing. Working directly with community groups and harvesters, doTERRA has created long-term sourcing agreements to buy Wintergreen essential oil. This provides a steady and reliable income for harvesters, and gives doTERRA a top-quality Wintergreen oil in return.
Healing Hands Foundation™ Involvement
Even before the devastating earthquakes in Nepal during the spring of 2015, the country faced severe economic challenges. After the two devastating earthquakes in April and May 2015, organizations and nations around the world sent aid in the form of money, supplies, and personnel to help rebuild Nepal. The outpouring of humanitarian aid was immense; unfortunately, many of the remote villages were out of the scope and reach of available funding.
The majority of the wintergreen growers and harvesters in Nepal live in the remote Dolakha district, where almost every home was destroyed as a result of the earthquakes. Partnering with CHOICE Humanitarian, the Healing Hands Foundation set up a donation fund to assist in the relief efforts for these areas. doTERRA also helped provide temporary housing tents for those whose homes were completely destroyed. Many of the distillation units were 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 get back on their feet and move forward after these catastrophic events.