Benzoin from Laos

© Givaudan

© Givaudan

The Givaudan Foundation has committed itself to the Phongsaly regions of Laos in cultivating benzoin together with the rural communities using ecological and practical methods. This nonprofit organization reflects the desire of the foundation to reinforce its involvement in charitable causes. It works together with local partners to ensure an efficient implementation of these projects to correspond with the needs of the local communities.

The perfume Water Benjoin Bohème has this distinctive quality from Laos. This was an opportunity for memento to interview the head of this project.


memento: Why such a commitment and how does that translate in concrete terms?

Givaudan Foundation: Givaudan is an important buyer of products from styrax (the Benzoin tree), consequently attaching great importance to the durability of this unique raw material and to the support of the local communities as well who have been in benzoin production for centuries. For these people, education is of a great importance. While the availability of primary schools is sufficient, it isn’t with the number of secondary schools. This lack of educational infrastructure can harm the social cohesiveness of these communities and the future of the workforce dedicated to the cultivation of benzoin.

Since 2007 Gicaudan has formed a partnership with a company called Agroforex to support the social part of their program which concerns two regions from the province of Phongsaly both involved in styrax growing. In 2008 and 2009, Givaudan financed the building of secondary schools in the villages of Aseuh and Yangteuil. In 2014, due to the Givaudan Foundation, we are renewing our commitment by financing the expansion of the Aseuh secondary school.

memento: For how many years has this project of styraculture been operational ?

Givaudan Foundation: Our partnership with Agroforex began in 2007.

memento: Have you set a time for this commitment, until the local communities are fully autonomous or is this fruitful partnership to be for the long term?

Givaudan Foundation: The cultivation of styrax in Laos has a long tradition and the support we give to these communities does not only consist of our involvement for secondary education, but also in purchasing the products derived from styrax.   For Givaudan this collaboration is for the long-term.

memento: So how many farmers/growers – or families – are involved in this plan?

Givaudan Foundation: Since building schools, the number of students has significantly increased. The latest work we’d done also had the purpose to give the teachers roots to the area, to keep them there permanently. We’d already observed how much the construction of secondary schools had a part in the economical dynamics of the region.

memento: During the 7 years between the planting of trees and the first harvest, does your foundation, partnered with Agroforex, help the rural communities to live or cultivate other plants to live on?

Givaudan Foundation: The project promotes polyculture or mixed farming – rice and ginger have been cultivated in addition to styrax.

memento: Could you speak of the difficult extraction technique which requires skill and that would get forgotten if it was no longer passed on with experience and teaching?

Givaudan Foundation: The resin extraction and harvest can only proceed for a specific period due to the seasonal cycle of the tree and to obtain the best yield (performance) without harming the tree which is achieved by the grower high up the tree and requiring a trained ability to succeed. These techniques are passed on from generation to generation. It would be difficult to re-establish if interrupted.

memento: What are the processes for drying the resin? Is it totally natural or do you have to add chemicals to stabilize it?

Givaudan Foundation: First, the harvested resin is washed to get rid of the bark residue then it’s sorted into different qualities. No additive/adjuvant is used or added.