Frankincense:

Ancient supply chain, modern challenges, huge potential

At ProvenSource we’re driven to work in the most difficult supply chains, to demonstrate that not only does full traceability drive sustainable sourcing practices, but that supply chains are much more than just being points of origin. Raw ingredients, particularly when grown from indigenous native species, are part of fantastic diverse ecosystems that should be celebrated. These can and should form harmonious relationships between the people tending these crops, the social fabric of these communities and the underlying sustainability of people and flora.

This blog post is focused the magnificent setting of the frankincense carteri trees of Doonyaxa, Somaliland, the stunning beauty of the diverse ecosystems that support these trees, the depth of knowledge of communities harvesting the resin, and how celebrating these components counteracts the deep issues currently afflicting this supply chain.

Frankincense resin, despite being celebrated for millennia, retains a high level of secrecy. Scientific surveys in Somaliland, one of the key resin producers globally, remain small in number, and new species are still being discovered. This secrecy may have provided degrees of protection for the trees historically, but now threatens their underlying sustainability because of the increase in demand and the lack of power of resin harvesters to set prices. The opacity means very little funding is received by resin harvesters, it is stripped out by traders capitalizing on the lack of transparency, leaving the harvesters trapped between overharvesting or maintaining existing levels of poverty.

It is in this context that direct sourcing resin from harvesters radically alters the narrative for this supply chain. Rather than value being stripped out, payments go direct to communities and create longer term, more sustainable, engagement. Blockchain traceability, with data stored on an immutable ledger, provides evidence that companies really are paying harvesters directly. Until now this simply has not been done in Somaliland, and many sourcing companies would struggle to name even the region that resin is arriving from, let alone the village, farms centered around the village or the exact GPS locations of trees being harvested. Additionally a focus on traceability is enabling non-profits like Save Frankincense , to track inspections of resin sorting houses, as a way of driving sustainable change for improved working conditions.

By building these relationships with harvesters, companies can build resilience and trust, and learn to listen about sustainable and environmentally sound harvesting practices. ProvenSource is working with the Dayaxa Frankincense Export Company and FairSource Botanicals to enable this longer-term engagement, and to promote the uniqueness and untapped potential of these landscapes. We don’t want to just demonstrate ethical sourcing though, but to transport companies and their customers to this spectacular region. These landscapes are unique, and enabling customers to witness this drives empathy and engagement – ultimately driving demand for the best type of sourcing and frankincense available. ProvenSource works to connect impactful supply chains like this to brands like Pacha Soap Co, Soli and LUSH who want to see real changes being supported in difficult supply chains. ProvenSource was founded specifically to make supply chains inclusive and bring together diverse brands, regardless of whether they operate in competing channels, to realize the structural change they can bring by working in tandem.

We are creating a different, positive narrative for frankincense carteri, and we are asking others to join this consortium. Building and promoting these ecosystems and communities creates long term sustainability and it is not about selfishly protecting these unique ingredients but enabling all actors to act more ethically. Join us, transport your customers to experience how trees are tapped and the cultural landscapes, and change how your frankincense carteri is sourced to deliver sustainable frankincense.