For many of his 58 years, Mahdi Abu Alhassan Ibrahim has farmed gum arabic in Alodiat Alshargia, a village in the Um Ruwaba locality of Sudan’s North Kordofan State. Until recently, Mahdi Abu had never received formal training in gum arabic production. Instead, he used traditional harvesting techniques, which in many cases damage Sudan's gum forests.
“I did not know how to protect gum arabic trees,” Mahdi Abu said. “The tools I used for tapping actually destroyed my trees. My family would cut trees for wood. I also stored my gum arabic in plastic bags—which changed its color, smell, and texture, lowering its price at market.”
In 2011, Mahdi Abu participated in the Near East Foundation’s Sustainable Gum Arabic Production project. He benefitted from trainings offered to the gum arabic producer association to which he belongs. The trainings provided him with new techniques and skills for harvesting and selling gum arabic.
Mahdi Abu now uses improved tools for tapping which leave smaller cuts in his trees—preventing infestation by bugs and the early death of this valuable resource. He learned how to collect, clean, sort, dry, and store gum arabic seeds for future planting.
By improving the way he stores harvested gum, Mahdi Abu is now collecting a higher price at market--which has increased his family’s income.
The semi-arid Sahelian region of Sudan is highly vulnerable to drought, land degradation, and famine. The new skills and increased revenues resulting from NEF trainings are having a significant impact on families in the region. The project also encourages planting of new gum arabic trees, which provide an important barrier to the encroaching desert in places like Mahdi Abu’s village of Alodiat Alshargia.
“With the support of the Near East Foundation, I have learned new ways to increase my income and improve my family’s well-being through gum arabic, agriculture, and micro-credit projects,” Mahdi Abu said. “We have also learned the value of gum arabic trees and the importance of protecting this resource.”