Island nation focusing on its unique, specialty plant life to kick start economic growth
Among the botanical medley of banana, mango, cassava and peanut plants on this lush parcel on the northern coast of Anjouan is also the ylang-ylang – a slender tree that blossoms with delicate yellow flowers. One sunny morning, like so many mornings before, these golden, tapered blooms are being swiftly plucked and tucked away by Djamilia Alaoui.
Part of a newly established ylang-ylang cooperative in Comoros, Djamilia is one of approximately 250 female ylang-ylang pickers, 50 planters and 47 male distillers that are now co-op contributors.
The three islands that make up Comoros are flush with ylang-ylang plantings and dotted with nearby home-owned distilleries: for the flowers must be transformed into oil quickly following harvest. With the cooperative, Djamilia’s efforts are now directly connected to that of the distillers, and a new set of equipment sits at the edge of the ylang-ylang fields where she makes quick work of any flowers emanating a sweet scent.
“We harvest the flowers in our fields. We distill the oils in our distillery. And we export right at the Port of Mutsamudu,” said President of the Association of Comoros Ylang-ylang, Vanilla and Clove Cooperatives — Abdou Ahamadi — of the new setup.
He added, “every month, the coop produces 400 liters of oil. All the oils we produce go to France.”