To understand sustainability issues on harvest, we interviewed the collectors on how they extracted the resin from the trees. They told us that it is impossible to induce resin production by tapping. The frankincense resin exudation is stimulated by the activity of borer beetle larvae. They took me to the hills where the Boswellia trees grow (It was quite a slog up the hill) but nearer the top we came upon the Boswellia forests which looked in good shape. We saw some fresh gum which they peeled off and underneath was the larva working its way along the branch eating the bark.
The best time to harvest is a few months after the rains when the gum literally oozes out and they pluck the fresh resin off the trees.
Fixing Solar Water Pump
In February 2021 on a trip up north to the collection areas, we noted that the community solar water pump had been broken for three years and the Samburu women had to go for 2 hours to the nearest water hole to collect water. An extremely arduous journey in the intense heat.
We decided then to purchase spare parts and find a good technician and returned to the site and camped for 3 nights. Luckily nothing went wrong, the solar water pump was fixed and ureka! water gushed out of the taps. The community members were thrilled and since there were resident elephant in the area they decided to build a little dam for them to drink water. This would prevent the elephant entering the pump area and breaking the taps and destroying the solar pump again.
Hunt for Myrrh Trees
Over new year we decided a safari into the bush to hunt for Commiphora myrrha trees would be fun. Myrrh trees are known only to occur near the Ethiopian and Somali borders and the idea was to look at the soils and see if I could find them nearer our collection areas. At the moment, we harvest resins from Commiphora kataf, which is a type of myrrh, but does not have that wonderful deep, smoky, bitter aroma of true myrrh.
The first leg of our safari took us to Kampi Nyoka (place of snakes), on the main Marsabit/ Sololo highway and there we turned east on a track and crossed a desolate lava desert for about 70 kilometres.
As it was getting late we had to find a camp site and we turned off towards a small gravelly clearing in a hollow between the lava hills. It was extremely isolated and the quietest place I have been to, without even the sound of a bird. After setting up camp I had a look around and to my joy saw we were surrounded by myrrh trees, all in wonderful shape. What fortune!
Now I have the soil and botanical samples our next safari will be to see if we can find myrrh trees nearer home.