Ecological sandalwood… Part II… Haiti

Amyris sandalwood from Haiti

Amyris sandalwood from Haiti (the poorest country in the world and now the most unfortunate one too!) is the one I remember from my childhood in New Caledonia. It does not smell as strong and as ‘religious’ as the Indian one but has a subtle slightly smoked scent and is coming out greatly in fragrances for any purposes.

It is interesting to know that the recommended sandalwood species to fight against the endangering of the existing Mysore sandalwood from India are those from Haiti , Vanuatu and New Caledonia although the Vanuatu quality depends on whether it is extracted from plantations in the North or South of the island.

Amyris production factory Haiti

According to the research, in New Caledonia, the sandalwood is grown ecologically i.e. for 1 tree cut, 3 are replanted. In Haiti, the production of sandalwood is a major source of revenue for this poorest country in the world and therefore buying theirs is encouraged. It keeps most of the young people on the island in employment. Their earnings are a mere $3 per day but a few 1000 people are able to survive thanks to the Amyris.
All this to say that since the Soil Association, Ecocert and other associations of the kind, seem to actually be working against small producers in poor countries, I am more and more taking the view that those associations are actually endangering the revenues and living conditions of producers from poor countries by being so drastic (i.e. wanting to ban sandalwood all together) and through their behaviour, have the countereffect of what they are supposed to promote.
According to a UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) report on Amyris, the existing trees can produce essential oils for the next 10 years and the plan is to start reforesting soon. Amyris is only produced in Haiti and is grown biologically and organically. UNCTAD confirms that the distillation process is extremely long (120 hours) and no chemical is added in the production process. Also UNCTAD is trying to make sure that the production of Amyris, vetiver and mango from Haiti are recognised as biological products.
On the other hand, Indian and Australian sandalwood, due to the production processes are indeed endangering a whole forestry ecosystem since the worldwide demand has reached incredible levels and this is why if we, European and industrialised countries consumers want to show our ecological and organic interest, we would be well informed to actually start using sandalwood from Haiti and New Caledonia.
In 2002, an organic agency has been set up in Haiti in collaboration and sponsored by the UNCTAD and they are trying to ensure that they become recognised in Western countries. Have we ever heard of it? No. It makes me wonder what organic SA and Ecocert are actually promoting. It seems we have not evolved since the 70’s when the Western countries attitude of promoting sunflower oil rather than coconut oil led to the end of the production of coprah (and coconut oil) in many countries such as the Seychelles islands and Vanuatu. At the time, it was announced that the sunflower oil was better for health (when in fact it was all about promoting US sunflower production). Since then, numerous scientific reports have proved that coconut oil was one of the best oils for health as it contains all we need such as the lipids, proteins and glucids.

Market scene in Port-au-Prince before the earthquake Courtesy of Adam Jones

I am using Haiti amyris sandalwood in my perfumes and the results are really worth. As time goes, I am becoming more aware that we can strike a balance between endangering natural species and ensuring that we allow some populations in developing countries to earn a living. This is why I have decided to forget Organic, forget Fair Trade and proceed with MY own Fair Trade support by trying as much as possible to deal directly with producers in the countries which need our help and to benefit from our change of habits.

And at a time like now with so many Haitians affected by loss of revenues because of the earthquake, I have no doubt that many will follow my views…

Categories: AROMAS & SCENTS NEWS | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Ecological sandalwood… Part II… Haiti

  1. einsof

    magna gracia, much thanks, namaste.

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