Tea tree - an essential oil grown in Australia, and Zambia
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CTA. 2005. Tea tree - an essential oil grown in Australia, and Zambia. Rural Radio Resource Pack 05/2. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57354
Peter Aagaard grows tea trees on his farm in Zambia. The trees produce an oil which are used to make body care products, such as soaps and medicinal rubs.
Tea tree - an essential oil grown in Australia, and Zambia Cue: The oil from the Tea tree is a natural medicine. During the Second World War, Australian soldiers were given small bottles of tea tree oil to use as an antiseptic. When rubbed into cuts or bruises it prevented infections and helped them to heal quickly. Now, more than 50 years later, tea tree oil is part of the expanding industry of essential oils, and in demand, particularly in the United States, for its many health benefits. Inhaling the oil vapour can soothe sore throats and ease lung congestion; rubbing the oil into the skin is a good treatment for burns, rashes and sores. It can even be used to kill head lice. Tea trees originate from Australia, and that is where most of the oil is produced. The oil is extracted, using steam, from the leaves and branches. One tonne of branches and leaves can produce around six to ten kilograms of oil, which is a pale yellow or green colour. Originally harvesting was done from the wild, but the rising demand for the oil has encouraged farmers to plant tea tree plantations. And you don?t have to go to Australia to find a tea tree plantation. There are now some in Africa. Peter Aagaard, for example, is growing tea trees on his farm in Zambia. Chris Kakunta went to meet him to find out more about this unusual high value crop. IN: ?It does look a bit like a gum tree? OUT: ? because it then will look after itself I am sure.? DUR?N 3?45? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Peter Aagaard, who is growing tea trees on his farm in Zambia. Transcript Aagaard It does look a bit like a gum tree but maybe almost it looks a bit like a Christmas tree. It has very tiny leaves, they all sort of grow upwards on small stems and if you squeeze the leaf it has that very, very strong sort of medicinal smell to it, quite distinct from eucalyptus or gum trees, quite distinct from any other essential oil I know. It has its own very strong and peculiar scent. Kakunta Where do you think it originally comes from? Aagaard Australia. It is an Australian tree, and if you leave it, it grows into a huge tree. When Australia was discovered by Cook, Captain Cook I think, if I?ve got my history right, he noticed that the aboriginal people of Australia where using this, they were drinking it and using it for all sorts of medicinal purposes. And that is why it is called tea tree because he noticed that they were making a drinking potion out of it. And then a lot of research was done in the 50?s, 60?s and 70?s and the Australians were the people who launched it into the world as a medicinal essential oil. Kakunta For Sub-Saharan Africa do you think it can grow very well? Aagaard I do, I do, I mean we have had experts here who have looked at our tea tree, who know how it grows in Australia and they say it is growing very well. Kakunta What have been some of your greatest challenges in terms of growing this tree? Aagaard Getting the crop established, getting the nurseries established, getting the young seedlings to grow and transplanting them without them dying, that has been the most challenging part of the production cycle. I mean once the tree is established, and obviously you have to irrigate it, and once it is growing then it is very, very hardy. Kakunta Can?t it grow, for instance, rainfed? Aagaard Yes that is a good question. We are actually testing it in a rainfed situation. We will know very soon whether it could cope as a rainfed crop. I suspect it probably could. The yields would be a bit lower, but there again you are not investing in irrigation so that is a benefit. Kakunta Can it be grown by very small-scale farmers? Aagaard It could be. I think they would have quite a lot of difficulty establishing the nurseries but if they learnt how to do it, it could be grown by small scale farmers yes. Kakunta What are some of the products that you are able to derive from this tree? Aagaard One of the more important products are tea tree soaps, tea tree healing oils and tea tree rubs and I think that is the one that seems to be the most popular with the Zambians because they recognise that this is a genuine essential oil that has genuine benefits and it is not just about advertising. It really does work. Kakunta Usually these essential oils, the market is foreign? Aagaard Absolutely right, the market is foreign; the market is very difficult to penetrate even if you are a producer of organic products and that is why we decided, ?Why try and export all of our products, why not try to add value and offer them to Zambians in Zambia who can use them here?? And that is why we have got this arrangement with Shoprite. Kakunta How profitable is this tree? Aagaard It is quite profitable. The price for the oil is quite low but it has a high yield so I would say it is quite a profitable tree. But we like to put it into products, we like to add value. Selling it just as an oil, OK it is not as exciting than if you put it into soaps, creams, ready to use body care products, that is better. Kakunta Now if a farmer, a small scale farmer wants to grow this tree what are the most important things that they need to do for them to grow it successfully? Aagaard I think we would have to supply the seed, we would have to look at that carefully and probably we would have to assist them with some sort of technical input on the nursery management, because that is the critical part. The seeds are tiny, they are smaller than tobacco seeds, they are tiny, tiny seeds, the nursery has to be carefully looked after. And then obviously they need to transplant the trees during the height of the rains maybe in January. And then I think once the trees are growing the major problem has been solved because it then will look after itself I am sure. End of track.