SUSTAINABLE & WILD HARVESTED FRANKINCENSE
Ethics & Sustainability, Frankincense, Frankincense as Medicine
Frankincense Rivae, Neglecta & Kenyan Frankincense. The potent black Frankincense resins.
HEALTHY TREES AND SUSTAINABLE WILDHARVEST
Frankincense Neglecta is a Frankincense species local to Eastern Africa. It is not the prettiest Frankincense resin but makes up for its looks with a unique fragrance and sustainability. It is speculated that the fragrant black resin forms only in response to the attack of borer beetles. This means there are fewer concerns about the impact of over harvesting on the species. In fact, recent focus groups in Northern Kenya reported the trees were thriving…
CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) is considering listing all Frankincense trees as at risk endangered and establishing restrictions on the trade of Frankincense resin. While there is no doubt that in some areas of the world, some of the species are declining from both natural and human causes, it is also clear that some species are doing quite well and general restrictions of the trade of Frankincense would have a major financial impact on tens of thousands of poor rural people whose livelihood depends on the collection and sale of Frankincense species resin.
THE SAMBURU WOMEN
The Samburu tribe are indigenous to Northern Kenya. Daily life of the tribe revolves around livestock which the men own and trade. The women’s days are taken up with domestic activities, caring for children and the elderly. The women have no income except for what they can produce or collect for themselves.
Fresh Frankincense Neglecta from the Samburu Tribe is sustainably collected and wonderfully aromatic.
Besides milk and the meat from goats, cows and sheep which are slaughtered on special occasions, most of their food and medicine comes from visits to the local village market gatherings where men come to trade and sell livestock and women buy or trade for provisions and medicine. Resin collection from a variety of trees represents the bulk of many women’s income. Having a reliable and fair price for their resins is critical.
ACCELERATED LOSS of our Frankincense trees.
We are losing our Frankincense trees faster than they can regenerate themselves. This means that some species of Frankincense will be extinct in a few decades. However, not all species of Frankincense are threatened and in fact some of them are thriving and could provide excellent alternatives that can reduce pressure on the mainstream trees until we remedy their decline.
Nowadays we increasingly hear about the steady loss of our world’s Frankincense tree population. Our growing demand for Frankincense essential oil is one of the factors increasing the pressure on the Frankincense population. (Remember, 95% of the Frankincense resin is discarded in the production of Frankincense essential oil.) The extra strain of increased tapping or over harvesting the trees for resin, compounded with damage from climate change, agricultural encroachment, grazing animals, natural pests, charcoal production, fire and disease is quickly bringing some Frankincense species to the brink of extinction. But not these two species. A recent survey shows both populations are thriving.
BEETLES & FRANKINCENSE
A benign relationship between trees and beetles benefits women of the northern tribes.
Authors of the fascinating paper, Hilary Sommerlatte and Erik-Ben Van Wyk have both spent decades studying the trees of Africa. In this latest publication they reveal the fascinating relationship between beetles, two indigenous species of Frankincense trees and their aromatic resins. Resins that provide much needed income for women of the northern Kenyan tribes.
Sustainability could be described as a system that can be preserved endlessly. The beetles deposit their larva in the tree’s bark, the trees produce resin that nourishes and protects the larva. The resin is collected by the women to supplement their income and care for their families. Round and round the circle goes with harm to none of the participants.
FRANKINCENSE RIVAE & NEGLECTA
These Frankincense types differ; hey are black coloured exudates, often with a granular texture that appear as lumps with no distinct tears. Believe it or not, these three trees produce 2-3 different types/colours of resin. All 3 of these trees provide income for local semi-nomadic tribes and clans and often supplement the income of the tribe’s women. Keep in mind that these three trees offer us their resins without the need for tapping which makes them eminently sustainable.
Both Frankincense trees produce 2 types of aromatic resins without human intervention. A clear resin that exudes spontaneously with no damage to the tree, and a black resin generated through the involvement of the beetles.
This is excellent news in light of the world’s Frankincense crisis and provides an elegantly sustainable product without disturbing the balance of nature or harming the trees. Consequently this brings these remote communities an ideal relationship between man and nature.
ULTIMATE CALL FOR NOW AND TOMORROW
This is where we all come in. With enough of a demand for their resins, we can bring a number of Samburu resins from remote and isolated areas to the West, guaranteeing the women a fair price and a stable market for their resins.
At the recent Global Frankincense Alliance online workshop, I noticed the striking difference in tree health, collection methods, and sustainability of the harvest between the different cultures and collector communities. From Africa to Arabia to India, each tree species, harvesting community and culture had its own unique story. In some areas, Frankincense tree populations are doing well, and in other areas the Frankincense trees are declining quickly and need our intervention.
The harvester communities around the world are ideally positioned to steward our resources in these remote areas. Healthy communities with healthy relationships with the land and trees seem, in my mind, to be major factors in a sustainable harvest and healthy ecosystem. They should be acknowledged, encouraged and supported in every way possible. They can be the anchor that holds back erosion of the landscape and ensures healthy populations of all our medicinal and aromatic plants around the world for decades to come.
You can find fresh sustainable Samburu Frankincense neglecta in the shop.
THE RELATIONSHIP OF COMMUNITIES TO THE EARTH & THE NATURE
The relationship of harvesters and their communities with the land, the trees and the resins struck me as intrinsically tied to the wellbeing of the trees. In Northern Ethiopia, Frankincense Papyrifera trees are at risk of extinction in another few decades. Besides their natural enemies, insects, disease, grazing animals and wildfires, they are cut down for charcoal and to make room for endlessly expanding agricultural plots.
On the other hand, the Samburu tribe has a unique relationship with the land, and harming trees in any way is frowned upon. In fact, cutting down and burning trees for charcoal is common practice across Africa, but something one will, if ever, rarely see in Samburu county. This is due to their reverent relationship with their deity, the Nature God/Goddess N’kai, who resides in the mountains, the trees, lakes and animals. One could say N’kai protects the Samburu Frankincense trees, making sure they are not harmed. It takes on the average one whole day in the scorching sun to collect 1 Kilogram of Frankincense neglecta resin.
RECOGNITION & PRAISE
A very special thank you to all our customers who through their purchases have supported sustainable communities like Samburu our ongoing support, dedication to the Samburu people, resources and connections have brought CT to fruition. Must mention that not only a positive impact from one side, but many. Slowly but surely saying no to child labour and toxic waste materials, supporting regeneration and achieving the benefit of therapeutic incense smoke is a whole new world.
To learn more about what can be done to protect and conserve our medicinal and aromatic plants visit here