Boswellia Rivae

Women Frankincense collectors Ethiopia 2019 apothecarysgarden.com

The Frankincense collectors. Somali Region-Ethiopia

Visiting the collectors of Frankincense and Myrrh in the Somali Region of Ethiopia February 2019
Visiting the collectors of Frankincense and Myrrh in the Somali Region of Ethiopia February 2019

February 2019 brought a visit with the Camel and Goat herders of the Somali region of Ethiopia. What was once called the “Ogaden”. They are the collectors of Frankincense and Myrrh. While grazing their animals among the abundant Boswellia and Commiphora trees of the Savannah, they gently and sustainably collect the aromatic resins from the trees and ground.

Herders Somali Region Ethiopia FairtradeFrankincense.com
One of the Last water holes left in the dry season. The wildlife relies on it just as much as the herders. It is not unusual to see pissed off Warthogs trotting away, muttering about the lack of privacy and quiet.

Life as a pastoralist in Eastern Africa has become increasingly difficult as droughts regularly plague the land leaving animals and herders with little water or food in the dry season. There are no guarantees anyone will have enough to barter or buy basic nourishment for their families from season to season.

Collecting and selling these resins could add financial security to their lives. However, more often than not, they lack a market for their resins. Someone to sell them to, which is where we come in.

Our goal is to work with the collector families directly. To train them in best practices for collecting, sorting, grading and storing their resins and to establish cooperatives that will help support their communities and ensure a market with fair and stable prices for their resins. As much as they can collect.

Local and regional governments are with us on this project and with fingers crossed, we will see a container of ethically, sustainably and fairly traded resins in North America before the end of the year.

Dan

A visual comparison of 5 types of Frankincense-Boswellia- Papyrifera, Neglecta, Frereana, Rivae, Carterii/Sacra Apothecarysgarden.com

A Chart of Frankincense solubility

Here is an often referred to, unique and useful chart my friend in Addis Ababa, Professor Ermias Dagne, compiled and posted on his website Aritiherbal.com a few years ago. Due to various issues it has rarely been accessible on his website.

Frankincense tree in the wild

Frankincense tree in the wild

Many have asked for such a comparative tool for the various types of Frankincense, so, here it is. Much more study and research needs to be done on these precious aromatic and medicinal oleoresins. Not only to accurately discern the many compounds they share and distinguish themselves by, how these compounds affect our physiology, or interact with other compounds and medication, but to deepen our understanding of the trees that bear them as important cultural, economic and ecological entities.

Seeing to the prosperity and well-being of the harvesters and clans that care for these trees in the wild, still seems the most direct and efficient method to preserve and tend to them. For this reason, “fair trade” products and practices shine for their effectiveness in balancing the resources of the world, and carry with them a clear message of benefit through conservation.

Young Frankincense harvester bringing his daily harvest down from dangerous rocky terrain where the Frankincense Frereana  trees grow.

Young Frankincense harvester in the remote mountains of Somaliland brings his daily harvest down from dangerous rocky terrain where the Frankincense Frereana trees grow. Photo courtesy of Asli Maydi

Fair trade practices establish direct relationships with the harvesters, assure us of the freshest and best quality products, support conservation in ways large organizations cannot, and ensure fair value on all sides.

Though world demand for these healing natural products is growing, I think the first step is to preserve what we have in nature. From there we can devise methods to expand the harvest in ways that maintain both cultural and ecological balance.

The lives of the harvester families and clans often centers around the production, harvest and sale of these aromatic oleoresins, and must be accounted for. They are the only stewards of these trees and have been for centuries. If trees are damaged or lost, that loss is personal and beyond mere financial inconvenience. These trees grow wild in the most remote regions as do these families and clans. They are dependent on each other, and these trees are integrated deeply in their social and cultural lives.

Onward to the chart. Courtesy of Prof. Ermias Dagne, Addis Ababa and Aritiherbal.com

A Visual comparison of Boswellia Species-Frankincense

A Visual comparison of Boswellia Species-Frankincense

There are six common Boswellia species whose resins are traded and these are:-

Extractability of resin: Table 1 shows extractability data using 500 grams of gum-resins of 4 frankincense species with four solvents

Species name Common name

Water

Ethanol

Acetone

Hexane

B. papyrifera Tigray-Type 90 mg/ 18% 360mg/70% 240mg/48% 275mg/54%
B. rivae Ogaden Type 195 mg/ 39% 307mg/60% 287mg/57% 390mg/80%
B. sacra Beyo
(56 -178N)
93 mg/ 19% 370mg/74% 470mg/95% 220mg/45%
B. sacra Beyo Hilary 88 mg/ 18% 315 mg/63% 325mg/65% 249mg/50%
B. frereana Meydi Hilary 2 mg/ >0.5% 395mg/80% 386mg/77% 450mg/90%
B. frereana Meydi 56-178P 0.5 mg >0.5% 495mg/99% 220mg/44% 490 mg/98%