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NORWAY, IOWA (December 18, 2007) — Aura Cacia Training Manager Tim Blakley recently traveled to western Nepal to help the Tharu community increase the productivity and profitability of their essential oil distillation operations. Blakley was asked by the Farmer to Farmer Program to assist the projects that were funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to create income for the impoverished communities.
Aura Cacia's Vice President of Sustainability and Education Kathy Larson praises Blakley for undertaking the project, which the company supported by paying Blakley's regular salary while he was in Nepal.
"Our business shares the values of the Farmer to Farmer program, championing sustainable agriculture and support for the small growers around the world," says Larson. "In addition to the tremendous benefit this project has for the Tharu people, it's a great experience for Tim to bring back to our own Well Earth program."
Well Earth™ is the company's sustainable sourcing and social responsibility program. Both Larson and Blakley travel extensively to develop and certify growers for the program. (More information on Well Earth can be found at www.auracacia.com/acwellearth.)
The remarkable impact of these distillation projects on the entire community was immediately apparent to Blakley. "The Tharu are almost exclusively subsistence farmers living in extreme poverty," he says. "These two tiny distillation facilities are the only options at this time for the community to make money and 'get ahead' a bit."
Blakley says it's gratifying to know that even the smallest improvements he facilitates in any area of the operations -- from farming to distilling to post production to marketing and sales -- have a positive effect on the hundreds of households and thousands of people directly and indirectly involved in the community project.
"Even though their total production is small, it represents a huge amount of income to them," he says. "They have invested every extra resource they have into this distillation business because it truly offers them a chance to change their lives."
The project's distillation operations are decidedly low-tech and sustainable. The essential oil still is fired by dried lemongrass, as is common in these remote communities. (Automobiles, aside from UN vehicles and a few SUVs hauling occasional tourists, are almost nonexistent in this area.) Farming for the essential oil botanicals is done by hand and with ox, and the harvest is delivered by ox cart.
Six crops -- lemongrass, palmarosa, citronella, German chamomile, corn mint and eucalyptus -- are currently distilled by the Tharu. All the plants are cultivated except the eucalyptus, which is harvested from wild trees. In the first year only a few hundred pounds of oil was produced, but all of it was sold, and it was considered a very successful year. Plantings have been greatly expanded for the coming year, and production is expected to double.
Blakley's personal notes on the project and his experiences in Nepal are available online at www.auracacia/nepalproject.
Farmer to Farmer, which is sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), sends experts to communities around the world that have received USAID funding for agriculture-related projects with the goal of maximizing the effectiveness of the funded projects. Information on Farmer to Farmer is available at www.farmertofarmer.org.
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Aura Cacia® Aromatherapy
Aura Cacia provides consumers with personal-care products made with 100% pure essential oils. Aura Cacia® fulfills consumers' desires for comfort, health and safety in personal care products by combining the benefits of aromatherapy with practical products that can be used every day by the whole family. A sister brand, Aura Cacia Organics®, offers an extensive selection of organic aromatherapy products. Aura Cacia and Aura Cacia Organics are brands of Frontier Natural Products Co-op™. Find out more about Aura Cacia at www.auracacia.com.
Frontier Natural Products Co-op™
Founded in 1976 and based in Norway, Iowa, Frontier Natural Products Co-op™ offers a full line of natural and organic products under the Frontier, Simply Organic®, Aura Cacia® and Aura Cacia Organics® brands. Products include culinary herbs, spices and baking flavors; bulk herbs and spices; and natural and organic aromatherapy products. Frontier's goal is to provide consumers with the highest-quality organic and natural products while supporting and promoting social and environmental responsibility. For more information, visit Frontier's website at www.frontiercoop.com.