by Susan Curtis
Frankincense plays an integral part in the Omani heritage and culture and has been a main source of income for Dhofari communities for centuries. The primary range of the Boswellia sacra tree, a species considered to produce a fine quality resin, is in Oman. The Qarā’ Mountains in Dhofar, the southern province of the sultanate of Oman, experience rain and mist from an annual monsoon that keeps the seaward (southern) side of the mountains, as well as the coastal plain, fertile, providing ideal conditions for Boswellia sacra to thrive.
Several threats affect this species range such as habitat destruction, insect infestation, overgrazing particularly by camels, and over-tapping for trade. Along with many other species of frankincense, Boswellia sacra is listed as “Near Threatened” on the Red List. In a previous project the Environment Society of Oman (ESO) studied the sustainable harvesting of frankincense trees in four experimental research locations in West Dhofar from 2014 to 2017. An optimum frequency of tapping was determined to produce good yield without adversely harming the tree. An outreach program and a poster were delivered, including two workshops attended by around 150 people in 2016.
Campaign Aim And Activities
The current campaign is a partnership between the ESO and the UK-based natural health and beauty company, Neal’s Yard Remedies. It aims to spread awareness about the conservation of frankincense trees and to have a planting program donating seedlings to local communities. It covers the following activities:
- Spread awareness about sustainable cultivation and care of frankincense trees in the local communities of Dhofar by organizing school presentations; one-to-one meetings with farmers, land owners, and tribe leaders; and awareness presentations in public areas.
- Distribute frankincense seedlings (around 1,000 Frankincense (Boswellia sacra) trees survive the extremes of the Omani climate. per annum) to local communities as a message of conservation and environmental stewardship. This is accompanied by a leaflet describing best practice of caring for donated trees and supporting long-term viability.
Progress To Date
Neal’s Yard Remedies has been working with local experts on a nursery to cultivate Boswellia sacra seedlings since 2017.
In October 2019 Neal’s Yard Remedies partnered with the Environment Society of Oman to launch the Frankincense community outreach and tree planting campaign in the Sultanate. Aimed at safeguarding the future of the Boswellia sacra trees, this campaign kicked off in Sadah and Mirbat, where 500 seedlings were distributed to participating local farmers and harvesters, students, and community members. In December 2019 a further 500 seedlings were distributed in Thumrait, and there will be a follow up assessment in May 2020
Global Frankincense Alliance
This is a very timely project that supports some of the main aims of the recently founded Global Frankincense Alliance that Neal’s Yard Remedies has signed up to and which supports the protection and conservation of Boswellia and Commiphora species through promoting propagation, sustainable harvesting, and use of the trees and their products.