This Is More Than Just Distilling

I really want to talk about our connection to the source of our frankincense and myrrh, Somaliland, and how it is truly the foundation of our business. Part of our mission statement reads: “Reinvesting in the harvesting communities and paying the harvesting families a fair price is at the core of our business.”

I’m always struggling with how to let people know our mission is not just lip service (without sounding preachy), but something we are constantly working towards as we go about our business. Every decision made is done so with that one sentence in mind. We have this crazy idea that business can actually do so much good when it’s not solely focused on the bottom line. Not to say that profit isn’t important (or there would be no business), but reinvesting in the health and longevity of the local community is just as (if not more so) important.

Some of you may be asking, “Why Somaliland?” Because that’s where Mahdi (founder of Boswellness) is from and where his heart still resides.

In fact, Mahdi is the one who really fostered the relationships and engages with the Somali community, unsurprisingly as that is his culture. Without having that connection, it’s unlikely that we could have made a real impact on the harvesting communities. The cultural intricacies (let alone a language barrier) would be too much of a challenge for a non-Somali to navigate and truly connect with the community on the level that only a local could do.

As I sit here and try to make a list of the initiatives we have taken on, it occurs to me that we have been very busy over the last 8 years, and yet we still have so much more to accomplish. But so far, here’s what we have accomplished:

  1. Met with the harvesters and land owners
  2. Introduced them to the essential oil of the frankincense and myrrh resins. (They didn’t know about that part)
  3. Educated the harvesting community on the end consumer market possibilities for their resins.
  4. Sought out and partnered with academic institutions to study the ecology of the trees and create plans for sustainable harvesting.
  5. Connected UVM and Burao University on this project so that local youth could become involved in helping their community and become stewards of future sustainable harvesting practices.
  6. Conducted a rapid assessment of the current situation on the ground in Erigavo. Asked harvesting community about their needs. (Video here)
  7. Established a fair price for the resins based on what the harvesters deemed fair.
  8. Submitted numerous proposals to NGOs for projects ranging from access to clean water, to installing sanitary bathroom facilities for the community, to renewable energy and more. (Although none of the proposals have been funded yet, we are hopeful that they will be one day).
  9. Applied for and successfully attained (3 years after we began the process!) the first organic certification for frankincense and myrrh from Somaliland.

We’re pretty proud of that list and we’re going to keep on adding to it. It’s been quite a fulfilling journey so far. And the fringe benefit of having a constant supply of that liquid gold on hand… not so bad either.