Our actions

Ylang-ylang in the Comoros

50 energy-saving furnace distillation units installed

Wood consumption reduced by as much as 70% per distillation

1 local enterprise trained to autonomously build energy-saving distillation units

More than half of traditional distillers trained

THE FRAGRANT ISLAND OF ANJOUAN

Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata forma genuina), of the Annonaceae family, is a tree native to Southeast Asia that produces highly fragrant yellow flowers. Comorian ylang-ylang essential oil, obtained through steam-distillation of the flowers, is world-renowned for its quality. It is traditionally used in perfumes and has seen more recent use in cosmetics and aromatherapy. Today, most of the Comorian ylang-ylang production comes from the island of Anjouan.

The NRSC completed a sustainability assessment of the Comorian ylang-ylang essential-oil industry in 2014. The study revealed a great need to modernize this supply chain to reduce its negative impact on the environment and increase its ability to generate shared value on the island. The challenges are daunting: deforestation, the extreme poverty of local pickers and distillers, unpredictable product quality, price fluctuations, and more.

JOINING FORCES TO FIGHT DEFORESTATION AND POVERTY

This process of identifying the issues facing the supply chain led the NRSC to support the work of French NGO Initiative Développement in fighting deforestation – tied to the use of wood as fuel for the distilleries – and to support locals along the chain facing great economic insecurity.

Energy-efficient distillation units were installed in many small artisanal distilleries on the island of Anjouan, to reduce pressure on natural resources and lessen the production costs borne by the distillers. Upgrading distillers’ skills through hands-on training in the field has resulted in production of high-quality, traceable oils and the supply chain’s gradually becoming more equitable, sustainable, and competitive, allowing for improved distribution of the added value.

A FAIRER AND MORE SUSTAINABLE SUPPLY CHAIN

These actions, in relatively little time, helped bring about lower production costs, higher quality, higher yields, and, consequently, an increase in producer revenues. The technological contribution not only reduced pressure on natural resources, but improved distillers’ standard of living.

In 2017, we renewed our collaboration with Initiative Développement to support a reforestation program, an environmental issue that is not only still of grave concern, but also requires the involvement of all institutional actors. The UNEP and the AFD both believe in the model and have begun a major reforestation program on the island of Anjouan.

It is satisfying to us to see the synergies developing between the various NGOs working on the Comoros, which is certain to lead to even greater positive impact from these initiatives. These projects are ongoing, reaching well beyond the mere harvest and distillation of ylang-ylang flowers.

WELL-PLACED OPTIMISM

In 2015, when the program was introduced, 50% of the investment was financed by ID project partners (for training, drafting of a best-practices guide, and monitoring), and the distillers paid for 50% of the equipment. Today, the NGO pays for (only) 25% of the cost of installing the distillation units: the distillers themselves pay the remaining 75%! Essential-oil production has become a more profitable activity. Such a responsive and favorable context encourages us to pursue these efforts, particularly with the pickers, who are mostly women, to ensure that they, too, benefit from the positive developments along the supply chain.