Oman Daily Observer
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
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.