Development and marketing of rare essential oils from our reforestation projects.
Market agro-forestry products, a necessity.
Ishpingo foundation has always been convinced that the fight against deforestation must be conducted by local populations. However in a context of globalization, even the Indians leaving in the Amazon expect their environment to provide them with sufficient income to support themselves.
To broadcast widely Ishpingo’s agro-forestrian model, it just has to be more profitable than existing monoculture models. Thereby it’s necessary to support reforestation through the marketing of agricultural and forestry products resulting from it. After spending close to 20 years planting trees in the Amazon, this is exactly what we strive for, especially with Amazonian cinnamon essential oil.
Market study, tests and search for partnerships
The idea of producing essential oils emerged in 2017 after visiting a distillery. The man in charge told us that Amazonian cinnamon essential oil is excellent and that it should be marketed.
It was enough, the project was launched.
Firstable we studied the essential oils market and especially that of Asian cinnamon. Then we performed our own tests.
After being able to produce small amounts of oil in three different distilleries, our samples were analysed by 2 major companies in the cosmetics industry. Promising feedbacks and some wise advices given by an expert pushed us to rent a small still to perform more tests.We aimed at improving the quality and yield of our oil in function of several different parameters : tree chemotype, harvest climatic conditions, altitude, type of soil, cropping conditions, size and age of trees, dried or fresh leaves, distillation duration.
After 40 distillations and as many chromatographic analyses, we see much more clearly. Thanks to all these precious datas we performed a distillation in an industrial still trying to bring together all the favorable conditions.
Samples were sent to more than 20 potential customers. Some of them got interested and one perfumer in particular asked us for 2kg of our oil in order to perform a larger scale test. Taking advantage of the on-going construction of our agro-food factory, we decided at the last moment to include a small distillery equipped with a boiler and a 1000 liters industrial still. We produced the 2kg of oil and sent them to the customer who were very satisfied with the product. Early in 2019 he passed a first firm order of 20kg.
Development of the sector : supply, distillation and export
Amazonian cinnamon essential oil is obtained by distillation of the leaves and twigs harvested while pruning the tips of trees and this operation can only be performed once a year. We gave a close look to leaf regeneration rates according to the different pruning techniques. Thus we can explain to each farmer, during the first harvest, how he must proceed. Note that we also provide pruners and bags.
Once trained, they take care of the whole harvest. We only have to come back to them for the weighing. The leaves are transported to our factory where they will be spread on the ground to avoid any damage.
We buy leaves twice per weak, only on sunny days, a ton a day. The distillation follows in the next few days. The still can be charged with 300 kg of leaves and a single distillation lasts 6 hours (a full day of work). The development of this sector has enabled the creation of a full-time job for the distillation and another part-time for the purchase of the leaves. Marcia is in charge of the distillery and Marco of the supply.
In 2019 more than 50.000 dollars of leaves have been bought to 200 kichwas agro-farmers.
In 2021, with more than 80.000 dollars of oil sold, we noticed an increase in demand but were slowed down buy some limiting factors.
Firstable, in order to be able to transport and transform 100 tons of leaves into oil we had to buy a small lorry and to create a bigger distillery. Since september 2022, our distillery is running at full speed with its 2 stills of 1000 liters powered by steam boiler that runs on 100% renewable hydroelectric energy.
Each producer grows only a few trees, but the sale of the leaves has allowed them to considerably increase their annual income. On average, they increased by 15% for only one to three day of work within the whole year.
This is result is incredibly good for Ishpingo foundation as well as local populations who have just embarked on this new sector. However caution should be exercised and we need to confirm this trend in the up-coming months…
To strenghten the sector we continue to seek new customers interested in purchasing our cinnamon essential oil. We contacted a lot of companies, sent samples to those who asked us and we are hopeful of opening up new markets. That way we will be able to considerably increase the volume of leaves purchased from farmers.
A sector deep-rooted within sustainable development
Amazonian cinnamon is a medium-sized native tree. Its local origin as well as the molecular composition of its leaves provide an incredible natural protection against harmful pests (insects, mushrooms…) that might affect the production of leaves. Thereby using chemical pesticides is unecessary making Amazonian cinnamom essential oil a genuine organic product. However that kind of tree hosts a lot of ants which make the harvet of leaves quite difficult espacially for the farmers who has to climb the tree to do it.
Amazonian cinnamon essential oil is obtained by distillation of the leaves and twigs harvested while pruning the tips of trees. This operation can only be performed once a year. Consequently the tree will continuesly grow fresh leaves thus becoming a source of carbon capture. Note that after distillation, the leaves will be used as compost. Their natural decomposition will allow some of the carbon they contained to return to the earth. Moreover, the humus thus produced will enrich the soil and feed the fruit trees, which require a lot of nutrients.
Essential oil is a highly concentrated processed product since it extracts the essence of plants. The Amazonian cinnamon one in particular is rare thus making it an expensive product. No need to fill entire containers, just a few boxes exported per year are enough to have an impact on hundreds of producers. For example, 500kg of leaves are necessary to produce only one liter of Amazonian cinnamon essential oil ! Fossil energy consumption related to transport is therefore very low.
We are trying to develop a fair trading model based on trust and the satisfaction of both parties. The aim is to create a real economic, social, supportive and sustainable alternative to extractivism. Indeed, buying the leaves represents 60% of the final selling price.
After experimenting with different harvesting methods and post-harvest technics, we set up a protocol that allows both harvesting all the leaves of a single tree (looks like a deciduous tree at the end of winter) and fostering its regrowth without causing too much stress to it. That way, one year and a half later the tree can once again be harvested ! In addition to its delicious fragrance, Amazonian cinnamon essential oil presents promising medicinal properties. It might become, in the long term, an alternative to antibiotics in the treatment of various bacterial infections. The benefits of ishpingo cultivation are demonstrated, for mother nature as well as local populations, but we must ensure that this crop does not besome a victim of its own success.
Since 2019 it has been awarded the prize for the most profitable crop in the region ! It may lead to a kind of gold rush and the the start of its intensive cultivation. However mother nature decided it otherwise. There are few mother trees available to us collect the precious seeds. In addition those trees only produce seeds once every 5 to 7 years. Once the seeds have felt to the ground they are almost instantly devoured by wild boars and other kind of animals.
Please note that Ishpingo foundation won’t buy any leaves coming from monoculture /intensive crops. The tree has always to be part of an agro-forestry system rich in biodiversity.
In order to increase the supply, Ishpingo foundation used its seeds bank to provide dozen of young trees to around one hundred farmers. They thus will be able to get additional income in a few years without increasing their workload. Farmers harvest and sell leaves when they decide to (rather when they really need it) and can include this cash crop within a traditional cropping system based on polyculture and self-subsistence.
Seeking new rare oils
Since we don’t intend to stop on such a good path, we are currently working on new essential oils.
That’s why we bought in 2019 a small still that allows us to perform experimental distillations with different kind of Amazon tree species in order to discover new fragrances. Until now 4 species has been distillated : balsamo, cedro, batea caspi, canelo amarillo. In the coming months we expect to get new oils.
In the meantime we are in contact with several perfumeries, cosmetics and pharmaceutical companies which are willing to get more information about our oils. If their tests and analysis are conclusive it might lead to furture commercial relationship