The trees of the Boswellia family, whose populations are concentrated around the Red Sea, ensure the production of frankincense worldwide. But they are in constant decline, especially because of fires, insect pests and grazing. Ninety percent of these trees could disappear within fifty years
According to one study, in the Journal of Applied Ecology 5 (British scientific journal dealing with applied aspects of ecology), production could fall by half in the next fifteen years, according to the researchers. This study was done on the trees of Ethopia, however the researchers agree that the threat also weighs on the trees of the Arabian Peninsula. Boswellia sacra, the Oman tree, is on the IUCN 10 Red List (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) IUCN 6
During my second visit to the Sultanate of Oman, with the help of a guide friend, Alawi 7, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Mohsin Al Amri, Ph.D. in Biology Sciences, ecology and soil sciences. He was also a member of the Environmental Society of Oman (ESO) 8- 9 and responsible for the research project on the incense trees. This project was launched in 2010 by ESO to promote the sustainable harvest of Frankincense trees in Dhofar.
Being neither a writer nor a journalist, it was not easy, for the passionate person that I am to have an interview with him. The fact that Dr. Mohsin Al Amri had already given several interviews to television channels and other people 10 , (whose research objective was surely more elaborate than mine), I was waiting for a positive answer. After several rescheduling, I met him in Salalah in all simplicity, and I thank him for it. I discovered someone passionate about preserving the culture of incense. He said in the "Oman Daily Observer" of June 12, 2012:« Keeping the incense is like preserving the heritage of Oman, of which I am very proud... »
This long-term research project aims to determine the correct cutting frequency to obtain a good yield without damaging trees. In addition, by monitoring weather conditions at three different locations, the project aims to establish a baseline. It can be used to monitor the impacts of climate change and the growth effects of frankincense trees. An indirect objective of the project is also to try to encourage the old incense producers who leave this profession, sometimes trying to settle in the big cities, to believe in the viability of this culture and to grow again some incense trees. The goal being that this time the harvests are at sustainable levels.
The research project, « Sustainable Incense Tree Harvesting », focuses on four experimental sites and monitors 180 incense trees in the Dhofar to determine the appropriate frequency of harvesting for sustainable yield without damaging trees 11
Dr. Mohsin Musallam al Amri, focused on the branding of Omani incense to preserve its authenticity. In an interview with the « Daily Oman Observer » in December 2016, Dr. Mohsin expressed his joy at the discussions on the incense that had been around this topic, and the research conducted by various specialists. He reiterated his wish for a « Certificate of Origin » 12 for Omani incense to be sold as a unique Oman product on the international market.
«... confirmed by recent scientific research (Limitations to sustainable frankincense production (...), Journal of Applied Ecology, 2011), concerning the state of the Boswellia forests in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, there was a need to save a natural resource endangered. This is how the Boswellia Project was born in 2012 13 :
... the economic and ecological importance of the Boswellia tree for rural Christian communities in the arid Tigray region of northern Ethiopia » ; According to the project manager.
The project proposes an unprecedented model of solidarity trade and forest preservation of the tree - Boswellia papyrifera - a plant endemic to the tip of Africa.He also wants to guarantee producers in the Tigray region 14 fair incomes and working conditions. The forest preservation component of the project is provided by the collaboration of researchers in Ethnobotany and Pharmacology from universities in France and Ethiopia.