Khartoum, Sudan (August 29, 2012) — In its first year, a Near East Foundation project in the central Sudanese state of North Kordofan has used micro-credit to support 184 individual initiatives to improve the production of gum arabic while protecting woodlands.
Gum arabic, a resin harvested by hand from Acacia trees in these woodlands, is used globally in products ranging from soft drinks to pharmaceuticals.
In recent years, woodland cover has significantly declined because of increased pressure through activities such as over-harvesting. This decline threatens the livelihood of millions of Sudanese, and a critical natural resource in the fight against climate change.
Project initiatives include a range of activities designed to diversify income and reduce pressure on Acacia woodlands, such as conversion to butane gas for cooking, zero-grazing animal fattening, and planting trees.
Producer associations, which support local gum arabic farmers, are integral partners with NEF. The four participating Gum Arabic Producer Associations have reported that they own protected forest areas around their villages. In these protected areas there is no arbitrary cutting of trees and no overgrazing.
The positive impact of this increasing area of protected woodlands has extended to many neighboring villages – not formally included in the project – which have received training from the leadership of participating associations. After learning about the successful strategies, many neighboring villages have applied similar protection policies in their villages.
Activities are strengthening the rural economy and building sustainability in the forest ecosystems upon which rural livelihoods depend.
Participating gum arabic producers have increased their income by an average of 200 to 350 Sudanese Pounds per season – a significant amount in an area where 90 percent lives on less than a dollar a day. The repayment rate of micro-loans has been 100 percent, resulting in the growth of these community-based funds by 25 percent over this time.
NEF is now preparing to provide communities with additional Acacia seedlings in the upcoming planting season, working in partnership with the Sudanese Ministry of Agriculture.
The Near East Foundation is a U.S.-based international development NGO leading innovative social and economic change in the Middle East and Africa for almost 100 years. Founded in 1915, NEF has helped build more sustainable, prosperous, and inclusive communities through education, governance, and economic development initiatives. NEF field staff – all of them from the countries in which they work – partner with local organizations to implement grassroots solutions and build “knowledge, voice, and enterprise.” To learn more visit www.neareast.org.