Dr Mohsin Musallem al Amri has com­mit­ted him­self for the cause of frank­in­cense and claims to have achieved “very lit­tle” success in cre­at­ing aware­ness among the peo­ple and au­thor­i­ties about the im­por­tance of this an­cient tree. He lives the dream of havin

Oman Daily Observer - - HERITAGE/CLASSIFIED­S - By Kaushal­en­dra Singh

HE is a sim­ple man who has set a very big goal for him­self. Day and night he is busy think­ing of the trees of the genus Boswellia, the fra­grance of its aro­matic resin crossed the bound­aries of Oman dur­ing an­cient times and at­tracted traders from many parts of the world.

Dr Mohsin Musallem al Amri has com­mit­ted him­self for the cause of frank­in­cense and claims to have achieved “very lit­tle” success in cre­at­ing aware­ness among the peo­ple and au­thor­i­ties about the im­por­tance of this an­cient tree. He lives the dream of hav­ing a re­search in­for­ma­tion cen­tre for frank­in­cense and wait­ing for the day when this wild tree would be grown in our back­yards and lawns.

“We have to do­mes­ti­cate th­ese trees. We can start with plant­ing them in pro­tected ar­eas like pri­vate and pub­lic of ces where an­i­mals can­not reach and spoil them,” Dr Mohsin said.

He sounds a bit “dis­turbed” over the de­plet­ing num­ber of trees and de­mands at­ten­tion from ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing com­mon peo­ple of Dho­far. “Be­cause th­ese trees are spread over a vast area in the moun­tains of Dho­far and are fall­ing prey to animal graz­ing and wrong tap­ping by local peo­ple, who cut the trees un­sci­enti cally to get max­i­mum resins and sell them in the local mar­ket,” he added.

“Most of the time they tap the branches too deep caus­ing harm to the tree so much so that the tree dries and leaves no scope for fur­ther resin ex­trac­tion and this prob­lem is wide­spread,” he says.

When asked how he got the idea of sav­ing the frank­in­cense trees, Dr Mohsin took a pause and said, “My mother and grand­mother used to tell me many sto­ries while I was a child and there were good ref­er­ences about the frank­in­cense trees also. They used to tell its im­por­tance, medic­i­nal val­ues and its pop­u­lar­ity in many parts of the world.”

Dr Mohsin, how­ever, was im­pressed only with the fra­grance of frank­in­cense. As a child he did not know that he would study agri­cul­ture and be­come an agri­cul­ture sci­en­tist. But the fra­grance of frank­in­cense for Dr Mohsin al­ways meant some­thing more than a “sen­su­ous smell” and was al­ways very close to his heart.

“Pre­serv­ing frank­in­cense is like pre­serv­ing the her­itage of Oman, for which I am very proud of. I am grate­ful to En­vi­ron­ment So­ci­ety of Oman (ESO) and HSBC Bank for tak­ing up the cause of frank­in­cense for which I am work­ing as a vol­un­teer.”

The ob­jec­tives of this project is to iden­tify the sus­tain­able fre­quency of the cuts nec­es­sary to ex­tract the resin with­out harm­ing the tree, ed­u­cate the har­vesters, de­tect the im­pacts of cli­matic change and weather pat­terns af­fect­ing the trees, dis­sem­i­nate the re­search nd­ings to stake­hold­ers and raise gen­eral aware­ness.

Born in May 1963, Dr Mohsin did PhD in Bi­ol­ogy Sci­ence, Ecology and Soil Sci­ence from Moscow Academy, Rus­sia, 1998-2002 af­ter com­plet­ing MSc in Agri­cul­tural Sci­ence, From Univer­sity of Rus­sia, Moscow in 1990.

His re­search in­ter­est varies from en­vi­ron­ment pol­lu­tion by waste wa­ter to plant ecology and de­ter­mi­na­tion wa­ter re­quire­ments for plants

He car­ries a vast work ex­pe­ri­ence. He worked as As­sis­tant Re­searcher in soil sur­vey and land clas- si cation in Oman, a FAO project in Oman de­tail­ing wa­ter qual­ity and soil sur­vey in Bati­nah coastal plain.

From 1992 to 1994 he was As­sis­tant Re­searcher in Soil and Wa­ter Re­search Lab at the Ministry of Agri­cul­ture.

From 1994 to 1998 he headed the Wa­ter Re­quire­ment Sec­tion, Direc­torate Gen­eral of Agri­cul­tural Re­search, Ministry of Agri­cul­ture and Fish­eries, Oman.

He is the rst re­searcher in wa­ter re­quire­ment sec­tion from 2003 to date at the Agri­cul­ture Re­search Cen­tre, Ministry of Agri­cul­ture.

Dr Mohsin has many sci­enti c pub­li­ca­tions to his credit and due to his in­volve­ment in the frank­in­cense project he has been fea­tured in doc­u­men­taries, which high­light the im­por­tance of this rare tree.

For hard­work­ing Dr Mohsin the bal­anc­ing act with the fam­ily is not that easy. “Rather it is very dif cult some­times. As a vol­un­teer of the Frank­in­cense Project I take up this job only on week­ends, which is time also for my fam­ily and kids.”

“Since my wife is ed­u­cated, she un­der­stands my com­pul­sions and sup­ports me in her own way by man­ag­ing the fam­ily cho­rus de­spite the fact that she her­self is work­ing as a doc­tor (der­ma­tol­o­gist),” says Mohsin. When asked about the so­lu­tion for de­plet­ing frank­in­cense, Dr Mohsin said the so­lu­tion lies in sci­enti c study of the tree and rig­or­ous eld work.

“So far very lit­tle eld work has been done on the tree. And the­o­ries are based mainly on the as­sump­tions of ex­perts from out­side. We should gen­er­ate our own ex­per­tise through eld work and set­ting up of a re­search cen­tre,” he opines.

An op­ti­mist Dr Mohsin, how­ever, ex­pressed sat­is­fac­tion over the rate of the frank­in­cense project. He laid stress on doc­u­men­ta­tion, proper records and their proper in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

Among the frank­in­cense va­ri­eties avail­able around the world, he nds the Salalah va­ri­ety as one of the best. “There are ref­er­ences in an­cient books about Dho­far frank­in­cense, which was costlier than oil and was more pre­cious than gold.”

Tra­di­tion­ally, frank­in­cense is treated as a good omen and aus­pi­cious. In tra­di­tional Omani houses it is found to be anti-in am­ma­tory, anti-can­cer­ous, good for asthma pa­tients and anti-al­ler­gic. Its use in cos­met­ics and per­fumes is well es­tab­lished.

Dr Mohsin wants to make some im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion for the coun­try, “that con­tri­bu­tion may be very small, but that has to be pos­i­tive.” He does not carry the lust for be­com­ing pop­u­lar but wants his con­tri­bu­tion be mean­ing­ful.

His mes­sage for youth of the coun­try is as sim­ple as his own life­style. “Hard work,” he says. “You can­not de­velop your coun­try if you on oth­ers for such jobs.”

He calls upon the youth to set an ex­am­ple for the com­ing gen­er­a­tions and not to look at the gov­ern- not at all work­ing.”

He is wait­ing for the day when frank­in­cense gains its lost glory, gets recog­nised by its own peo­ple.

Dr Mohsin check­ingweather me­ter

Study sam­ples

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