Rwandan Patchouli: First Fair Trade Fragrance From Africa

rwanda-smaller.JPGCeline Roche is the vice president of Sales and Marketing for natural ingredients at Mane, USA, the American division of a top global fragrance company. She is also a New York based graduate of the Landmark Forum. Out of her participation in Landmark Education’s Self-Expression and Leadership and program, Roche translated her commitment to Fair Trade and making a difference into a concrete project that is already making a difference for 800 workers in Rwanda.

Fair trade is both a social movement and a model for economic development where workers are paid a fair trade, brought into their business as stakeholders, and social and environmental standards are observed in the development of a wide variety of goods. Fair trade practices have blossomed among many food products and hand crafts; however, it is almost nonexistent in the fragrance industry. Roche became determined to change this, and her company has gotten behind her vision to produce fair trade fragrance products.

Two years ago, two communities in Rwanda were starting to plant patchouli, but they had no western market for the product and there was no fair trade agreement. Through Roche, Mane is now the community’s partner, and Roche worked with the International Trade Center (ITC) of Geneva, a United Nations organization, to set up fair trade practices. Roche recently spent a week in Rwanda last October as the oil began to be produced.

smaller-celine-watering.JPGThe two Rwandan communities now have over 800 workers working in the planting, while a local company named Epcher is working closely with the community to extract the oil as the product produced rapidly approaches mass market quality. In the meantime, Mane is buying the oil the workers are now making to get the project off the ground. Most patchouli oil worldwide is produced in Indonesia, and it has almost no history in Africa, so this is something entirely new for the Rwandan communities. Plans are in place for two top leaders of the Rwandan operation to come this spring to Mane’s main offices in France for further training.

Roche realized when she took the Self-Expression and Leadership program in the fall of 2006 that she really could do this and that she was the one to make it happen. She credits the program with providing powerful training in being accountable and producing results.

New opportunities are now opening up for fair trade fragrance production. Roche is meeting with ITC in Geneva this April to discuss new projects in Ethiopia and Sierra Leone, and she has a supplier in Brazil that also wishes to get involved. Meanwhile, the first patchouli oil from Rwanda is expected to reach the market at the end of this year.

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6 thoughts on “Rwandan Patchouli: First Fair Trade Fragrance From Africa

  • October 6, 2008 at 8:57 am
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    Please note that Patchouli in Africa started in Burundi but it did not work out as in Rwanda. There are other people who are interested in planting Patchouli in the Great lakes region. How can we get in touch with Celine Roche?
    Thank you,
    Jessica

  • October 18, 2008 at 7:19 am
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    Hi,
    My name is Arthur from Kenya.I must start by commending Roche for the good work she is doing with the people of Rwanda. How can we also introduce this wonderfull crop to our Kenyan farmers?

    Your reply will greatly appreciated,

    Regards,

    Arthur

  • March 6, 2011 at 1:46 am
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    I can first thank Roche for the great work done in Rwandan economy and for the benefit of the environment. i would also like to introduce the crop to our good country Uganda so that our people can start benefiting from it as other people do.
    It can grow well in the Hilly areas in Kabale and Kisoro Districts.

  • March 6, 2011 at 1:49 am
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    It can grow well near Bwindi impenetrable National Game park.

  • March 14, 2011 at 4:53 am
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    I commend Ms Roche for the good work she is doing in Rwanda. I am an extension officer in Kisoro Uganda. Kindly connect me to Roche for this wonderful patchouli plant

    Thank you

  • July 11, 2012 at 7:08 am
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    Hello Josiane, I would tell you that this commodity is still in Rwanda, if possible you can visit different locations in Rwanda where we cultivate it. For more information, please welcome at my office-Kigali/Rwanda to facilitate you. Best Regards!

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