“Sustainability is a process, not an endpoint. I want to improve the biggest disconnect people have with essential oils- sourcing.” -Dr. Anjanette DeCarlo.
Far away in the northern stretches of the self-declared state of Somaliland lies one of the most biologically diverse forests harboring over 1000 plant species, 200 of which are endemic. This vast coastal wonderland rests on the edges of the Gulf of Aden, ushering in life-sustaining fog and mists.
Welcome to the Cal Madow, where the Frankincense trees grow.
Translated as Black Mountains, the Cal Madow is home to three of the most prized Boswellia species: Boswellia carterii, Boswellia frereana, and Boswellia sacra. These trees grow in remote rocky outcrops and on sheer cliff faces, making the harvesting dangerous work. To extract the valuable resins, the trees are first “cut” or “wounded” causing them to exude a viscous, milky-white liquid as a form of self-defense. This precious material is later collected, dried, sorted by quality, and distilled for numerous health and wellness applications.
With a variety of uses, there is no question why Frankincense was highly esteemed by ancient civilizations and used for the most sacred of practices. For some religions, Frankincense is correlated with one of the most prized possessions of ancient biblical times, as it was considered valuable enough to be given as a gift to Christ after his birth. Frankincense was also used during religious ceremonies for salves for soothing skin and perfume. The perfume or aroma that Frankincense emits promotes feelings of satisfaction, peace, relaxation, and overall wellness, which explains its unique value in ancient times.
Generations of Somalis and Somalilanders have harvested Frankincense trees preserving a rich cultural heritage passed down for centuries. In fact, the harvesting of Frankincense represents an income for over 300,000 people-roughly 10% of the population of Somaliland. This number continues to increase as the ongoing drought has wiped out 70-80% of the nation’s livestock forcing thousands of nomadic farmers to head north with their families in search of survival opportunities.
International demand for Frankincense essential oil is on the rise and according to Dr. Anjanette DeCarlo, scientific researcher and director of Conserve the Cal Madow, the Boswellia trees in the Cal Madow are under threat. Conserve the Cal Madow is a conservation and research project aiming to protect the Cal Madow forests and the frankincense economy. DeCarlo shared in a recent phone interview that “she has always had an incredible sensitivity to trees from a very young age, finding comfort and protection among them during uneasy times.” As fate would have it, Anjanette was approached with an opportunity to combine her talents in Ecological Economics, Sustainable Development, and Environmental Conflict Resolution with her passion for Social Enterprise. “Frankincense chose me, ” she said.
Anjanette’s first trip to Somaliland took place in 2010 to conduct a supply chain analysis of how and where Frankincense oil comes from and how it gets to market. CNN recently produced a 3-part documentary highlighting her work, which she says, ” is vital to the entire industry to let people know what’s happening in Somaliland, to educate international buyers and consumers, and to educate harvesters themselves so they understand the value of their product in the world market.”
Recent drone photographs taken by DeCarlo and her team confirm cross sections of the current Cal Madow forest conditions. Evidence of over-harvesting, double harvesting, bark stripping, as well as environmental threats like drought and wood-boring beetles demonstrate the ongoing need for international intervention to preserve and protect this biologically rich, old-growth forest from increased degradation.
At the heart of this open-source analysis, lies DeCarlo’s passion for partnering with the local chiefs, elders, landowners, and harvesters as well as international companies involved in the supply chain. “I want to work with companies who come forward because we need international buyer support.”
Answering the Call
dōTERRA, the world’s largest essential oil company proactively accepted that call. On stage this September at an annual convention in front of a crowd of 35,000 Wellness Advocates, dōTERRA CEO and cofounder, David Stirling, announced the company’s latest sustainability initiatives including a 3.3 million dollar pre-investment into the communities of Somaliland. “We asked the local elders in Somaliland ‘what do you want?’ Their answer, ‘We want to build schools and we need access to health care.’ ”
Understanding the importance of investing in local communities through mutually beneficial partnerships, dōTERRA plans to open a regional hospital in the Sanaag region of Somaliland in Spring 2018 which will serve 400,000 people, and has already constructed 2 schools which provide much needed education for local youth.
DeCarlo’s heartfelt sentiments were eloquently expressed that same day on stage. “dōTERRA is making a commitment to include sustainability as a pillar to identify ways to protect ecosystems and to amplify ecosystem services.” She continued educating, “our health is directly related to the health of the Earth, and so we want to make sure that when we’re amplifying our health with essential oils, we ensure the ecosystems where those plants come from are as healthy as the oils that we put on our bodies.”
Simple ways to get involved include:
- purchase your Frankincense oils from a company like dōTERRA, with a proven track record of developing long-term, mutually beneficial supplier partnerships while creating sustainable jobs and providing reliable income in underdeveloped areas.
- share this post with friends and family to promote on-going education.
- follow Dr. Anjanette DeCarlo’s work on Facebook.
- Visit Conserve the Cal Madow to see photos of these amazing trees and gain more in-depth analysis of the projects and how you can help.
- Learn more about the vast therapeutic benefits of Frankincense essential oil.
Jennifer Miller is a Las Vegas based dōTERRA Wellness Advocate, speaker, and marketing consultant. She volunteers as a Community Partner for global nonprofit BeadforLife, whose mission is to provide entrepreneurial training to 1 million impoverished people globally by 2027. Click here for a listing of upcoming events, or Follow her on instagram or Facebook @standinlovejen . To host your own BeadforLife marketplace or essential oil party this holiday, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org .