Afghan rose oil in cosmetics could help rural development

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Essential oil

Natural rose oil production can provide Afghan farmers with an
alternative to the opium poppy to generate much needed income in
ravaged rural areas.

This is the view of German cosmetics manufacturer Wala, the company behind the Dr Hauschka brand, which uses the rose extracts in its products. Project depends on political stability ​ Wala purchases a significant proportion of the rose products from the farmers in the eastern province of Nangarhar, and for the German manufacturer the project is a success which can only be threatened by political instability in the region. "The only question mark is the political stability in Afghanistan and that's - at least from our point of view - quite difficult to predict,"​ head of Wala's purchasing department Ralf Kunert told CosmeticsDesign. The project was started back in 2004 by the German NGO Agro Action (Deutsche Welthungerhilfe) in an attempt to provide alternative income generating activities to help combat the opium trade. Wala's involvement began in 2006 as a major buyer for the rose extracts and the company has also provided support and information about cultivation to the farmers. High value product​ Natural essential rose oil is a valuable commodity and 1kg of the essential oil will sell for between €4,000 and €6,000, explained Kunert. Four tonnes of rose petals are needed to get 1 kg of oil, which is approximately one hectare of rose plants. Only two or three tonnes of oil are produced worldwide every year and Wala is one of the biggest buyers, with part of its supply coming from the Afghan farmers and the rest from longstanding partnerships in Iran, Turkey and Bulgaria. The high value of the product is what makes it a potentially attractive alternative to cultivating the opium poppy, which according to Agro Action can be the only recourse for rural families experiencing extreme poverty. Wala are optimistic about the future of the project and according to Kunert the rose is the right plant for Afghanistan, both as an agricultural product and as a symbol of peace. In addition he notes that the production of rose oil is an Ancient Afghan tradition which the project has managed to bring back to the country. Wala will enter into talks this month with the Agro Action to discuss the future of the project and how to pass the reins to the local community. "The situation for the farmers and the project looks quite good and next step is to pass the project to the local people. Of course we will do our best to find a good solution for this procedure,"​ Kunert explained. Rose petal extracts, natural essential rose oil, rose water and rose wax are used in a number of the company's products including the Dr Hauschka Firming mask, Rose Day Cream, After Sun Lotion and a collection of colour cosmetic products.

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