Let’s talk about sustainably. Climatic changes, increasingly unpredictable rainfalls and wildfires have ravaged parts of Africa. In addition, excessive resin tapping and increased demand for the essential oils have caused major concern. Frankincense resins throughout the world are greatly threatened by their ever-growing popularity, over-harvesting, and destructive natural forces.
The rise in popularity of essential oils has had the most devastating effect on the natural population of these trees. Local harvesters try to meet large-scale corporate demands from the essential oil companies; but harvesting much more than the trees can handle jeopardizes the trees’ well-being. Once the tree is weakened from over-tapping, its immune system is compromised. This makes the trees vulnerable to disease and insects, which can destroy them.
Frankincense trees are becoming highly endangered, yet the demand and trade in this precious commodity has not slowed down. Studies show that if harvesters continue at this rate, in 50 years, Frankincense trees may be extinct.48
I have spoken to many farmers and leaders in Somaliland and Somali. They told me that wild-harvesting co-operatives in North Africa are aware of these problems and have begun to address them. They are working to spread knowledge and set up guidelines for healthy harvesting methods as quickly as possible.
When you purchase essential oils, make sure you buy them from reputable sources who conform to Fair Trade standards. Fair Trade companies teach their farmers to grow the trees and tap the resin in ways that are the healthiest for the trees. They also make sure the people who harvest the trees are given fair wages so they can feed their families.