Gene bank sought for olibanum trees

SALALAH: A report on frankincense suggests to have a pilot olibanum farm in western Raysut, or near Thumrait or in the Sadah-Hasik area so that treated water can be used to irrigate the plants. The farm, according to the report, will serve as a gene bank for olibanum trees to be used as a collection spot for all regions of Dhofar. The idea of pilot olibanum farm is part of many other recommendations suggested in the report. The Environment Society of Oman’s report in authored by Dr Mohsin Musalim al Amri and assisted by Badar Musthail al Shanfari. As per the recommendations, the farm would also be a place of tourist attraction to show visitors sustainable ways of harvesting frankincense from trees.

284285 The other suggestions came in the report titled: ‘Sustainable harvesting of frankincense trees in Oman’ has thrown light on many aspects of Boswellia sacra and come out with vital recommendations to raise its productivity and commercial viability. The recommendations range from tree harvesting norms to suggestions on pilot projects and management plan for scientific research and general awareness among people.

The main aim of the management plan “is to ensure sustainable harvesting of frankincense trees within Dhofar. The plan is recommended to be put in place amongst frankincense harvesters and different government bodies such as (but not limited to) Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth, Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs, Office for the Conservation of the Environment, Museum of Frankincense Land, Dhofar Governorate and Ministry of Cultural Affairs.” “Olibanum harvesters should be trained in sustainable harvesting techniques, and their work should be checked or monitored to ensure the norms put in place are thoroughly followed. This would allow frankincense harvesting to be done only by trained and registered harvesters under a permit system. Certificates of Origin could be issued for Omani frankincense, which would protect and optimise the value and the reputation of Omani olibanum,” said Dr Mohsin.

Commenting on scientific research, he said citing the report: “More research is needed as there are still gaps in this study that need to be addressed to enable on-going and improved understanding of the nature of Boswellia sacra and implications of its olibanum oozing and harvesting. Additional factors need to be studied to deepen our understanding of the quantitative and qualitative variations of olibanum production.”

He suggested that the potential variation in growth and the resin yield and the opportunity for the selection and improvement of Boswellia sacra could be attributed to the trees’ genetic variation within species hence it is recommended that further studies are done to establish the link scientifically.

The research laid stress on the conservation of trees and their organised plantation to make them commercially viable. “Any organism in human dominated area depends on the active involvement of locals. At every stage of protection for achieving this target, it is recommended that awareness is raised showing the importance and conservation of native plants for a diversified audience. The popularisation of good practices is needed among different segments of the society and could implemented through lectures in schools, information over available media, field visits, booklets, interviews, workshops and conferences,” said Dr Mohsin.

Commenting on the existing commercial value on frankincense, Dr Mohsin said frankincense was highly valued resource internationally and its conservation was important to ensure long-term sustainability of frankincense production. “The research advocates the need to seriously consider the commercial viability of cultivating Boswellia sacra tree if the tree’s harvest is to be sustainably and optimally used.”

According to the researcher, much progress has to be made as this is the first study of its kind in Oman. “However, there is a role to play in avoiding the catastrophic loss of genes, species and ecosystems. Conservation actions will be at various scales and vary from weeks to decades. Progress towards reaching outcomes will require specific actions in biodiversity conservation and close work with local communities and industry representatives.”

SOURCE: OMAN DAILY OBERVER

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