The forests of Sozoranga and Zapotillo are green and leafy. Winter is the season expected by 300 peasants of both Lojano cantons, to collect the fruit of the rosewood tree. These Lojanos deliver the harvest to the Aroma Santo enterprise, of the Córdova-Vivanco family, which has been in operation since 2017, and the Bolívar Tello Community Association, which began its work in 2007.
Both elaborate the essential oil, which they sent directly last year to buyers in Brazil, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. Between the two undertakings, they produced and exported 140 liters and expect to increase to 400 this year, with the opening of new markets.
Ramiro Córdova, 66, is the owner of Aroma Santo. He took advantage of his experience as a mechanical engineer and the 40 hectares he inherited in Sozoranga. For two years he researched and experimented with another technique for oil distillation. He found that the best way – without cutting the trees – was to extract the oil from the fruit and not from the trunk, as is usual.
For the infrastructure and equipment, he requested a credit of USD 100 000. In his factory, all the equipment is connected to each other: cooking tank, evaporator, condenser and separator, all built by Córdova; only the mill is industrial and uses it at the beginning of the process to crush the grains.
Manuel Angamarca, 20, is in charge of that task. Nowadays it is harvest time and it grinds up to two quintals a day. The fruit is similar to a tender pea. Rosewood only flowers and bears fruit between March and May. It is there when the farmers of Sozoranga and Zapotillo are engaged in the harvest. “It’s a complicated trade and in winter the heat is suffocating,” says Alberto Calero, 55, who harvests at the Santa Rosa farm in Fátima parish in Sozoranga.
The sweet aroma is spread by the property that belongs to Cordova. Calero uses a rod with a hook to reach the branches of the leafy trees, which measure up to 11 meters high. With his hands he takes the fruits and keeps them in a saddlebag that he carries on his shoulder. Every so often he rests and rubs his hands to wipe away the sticky oil. Calero says that seven people collect a quintal a day and for that work they receive USD 81. “It’s a source of work that we only have this season and we have to take advantage of it,” says peasant Esteban Encarnación.
Calero, Encarnación, Henry Calero and Félix Requelme are part of the 50 Lojanos who collect the fruits to supply the company Aroma Santo, which in 2017 processed 20 liters and exported to New York. The previous year doubled the amount, which was sent to Italy, the United States, Sweden, and Switzerland.
This year they aspire to export 300 liters because they have new markets such as Costa Rica and China. In addition, they await the approval of the product sent by samples to England, Spain, France, Chile, Brazil and Mexico.
The Bolívar Tello Community Association, of the canton Zapotillo, exported 100 liters last year to Brazil, which is 50% of its annual production. Each liter of oil on the outside costs between USD 400 and 600.
The rest of the production is used to make derivatives such as candles, incense and flavorings. This year, the 250 farmers of this association will not harvest, because the fruit did not reach the expected maturity. But since they have a remnant from last year, they will maintain the same export level.
According to its president, Diego Lara, the rains were too late and the fruits did not reach the required conditions. This project started with the support of the U. Técnica Particular de Loja and the Nature and Culture Foundation. But for three years, the partners work alone. (I)