Why is Beeyo Maal a cooperative?
The reasons for a cooperative model – By Luul Siciid Jaamac, Beeyo Maal Sorter and Chairwoman.
With ‘Maal’ translating to ‘Milking’, Beeyo Maal literally means the milkers of Beeyo, in other words the harvesters of Frankincense. The name describes how closely our livelihood is interwoven with the Beeyo and the trees that produce it. It is also a name connected to the name of our country – Somalia (Soomaal) – which means ‘to go and milk’.
The Beeyo Maal cooperative consists of three groups from the harvesting community of the Sanaag region of Somaliland:
Beeyo is the Somali name for frankincense and Malmal is myrrh. We have different kinds of gums and resins in Somalia, but my work primarily involves Beeyo and Malmal.
Led by women
Sorting is a job done entirely by women and the lowest paid in the entire gums and resins industry. Since starting, my wage remains the same and a promotion to supervisor comes with the same wage and no added benefits. As a result, the other sorters and I have teamed up to take on leadership positions in the newly formed Beeyo Maal cooperative.
We also joined the cooperative to strengthen women’s’ position in the industry. The Frankincense trees are passed down through generations but traditionally only inherited by the men, which is what leads the women to specialise in sorting. As we take pride in our work and the legacy left us by our mothers and grandmothers, we do not want to lose our jobs or the skills we have inherited. We just want to improve working conditions and have more of a say in how the business is run. We know that one day our resins will be recognised worldwide, and large quantities will be bought. When this happens, we want the cooperative to ensure that women are fairly compensated for their work, that the sorters can work in good conditions, and that the trees are protected for future generations.
The result of hard work
We have been working on the formation of the cooperative since August 2020. During this time we have consulted with 600 harvesters (400 landowners and 200 labourers) and 280 women sorters from many areas including, Hasasha and Madar Mogeh in Calmadow, Siraadley, Dayaxa and Doonyaha.