Benzoin is a raw material used in fine fragrances and many consumer products. Givaudan sources this material from Laos where villagers harvest benzoin as gum or ‘tears’ from trees known as Styrax tonkinensis.
Unfortunately many of these village communities are facing an exodus of people as parents leave to find secondary education for their children and as well as new sources of income beyond the production of benzoin.
To help support these communities, Givaudan and Laos-based partner Agroforex constructed a school at Aseuh in Phongsali province and financed the training of teachers. When it was completed in 2008, the school was officially integrated into the Laos education system.
To tackle the need for extra village revenue, Givaudan contributes to a programme set up by Agroforex to introduce new crops to communities.
“By teaching intercropping with rice and red ginger local people are being offered additional sources of income,” the company says. “Technical course are also being held to improve Styrax tonkinensis planting and the production of benzoin.”
Agroforex, a local producer and exporter of pharmaceutical plants, not only works with local communities to arrange the production of benzoin, but also runs a programme to sustainably manage the forest eco-system.
Through this work, the introduction of innovative crops and improved benzoin production, fresh raw materials have been discovered such as organic beeswax and organic red ginger oil offering communities providing much-needed new sources of income.
“Our approach is different to that of fair trade projects because we are trying to develop additional natural products in parallel to benzoin to help communities diversify,” says Givaudan.