Ylang-Ylang: Efficient Stills to Help Save the “Flower of Flowers”
Ylang-ylang, a tropical tree with yellow flowers that are particularly prized by perfumers, is known as the gold of the Comoros. That archipelago, the world’s largest producer of this flower, even leading Madagascar, produces between thirty and forty tons of ylang-ylang essential oil each year, primarily on the island of Anjouan. Today, in this particularly poor country, ylang-ylang is a vital source of revenue for the local economy, along with vanilla and clove.
A supply chain in distress
The production of ylang-ylang essential oil is not without environmental consequences and, for several years, agronomists and authorities have been sounding the alarm in the face of threats to the “flower of flowers.” Why? Because the Comoros archipelago has the fourth-fastest deforestation rate in the world. As large quantities of wood are needed for the distillation process, production of this essential oil is responsible for about 10% of this deforestation. In addition to the massive destruction of the forest and its consequences (drought, soil erosion, extinction of species, etc.), maintaining a supply of wood – an increasingly expensive material – is taking a heavy toll on the income of small distillers.
Efficient home-distillation units to curb deforestation
Since 2014, to help curb deforestation in the Comoros, the NRSC has been working with the international solidarity organization
Initiative Développement (ID), in partnership with ylang-ylang distillers, to install stills on Anjouan that consume less firewood. These efficient home-distillation units mean distillers not only reduce their wood consumption by more than 40%, but also reduce production costs, thereby improving their profits.
Thus far, this project has installed 30 improved fireboxes on 30 existing stills, representing nearly 20% of the island’s ylang-ylang essential oil production. The next phase of the undertaking is to implement a reforestation program on Anjouan, the island most affected by the phenomenon.