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Traditional ecological knowledge associated with Acacia senegal (Gum arabic tree) management and gum arabic production in northern Kenya

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This study documented traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) on the management of Acacia senegal trees (Gum arabic trees) using a structured questionnaire. A total of 149 randomly selected respondents from six locations in two districts of Samburu (Rift valley Province) and Isiolo (Eastern Province) were interviewed. Results show that local communities use their indigenous knowledge to manage natural gum arabic tree resources to sustain and improve their livelihoods. Restriction to the collection of only dead and fallen wood, community by-laws and nomadism were the main conservation strategies employed by the locals to protect gum arabic trees. Collection of gum arabic from wild gum arabic trees was mainly done by women during the dry months of the year. June to September season yielded higher quantities of gum arabic than the January to March season. More gum arabic was collected from gum arabic trees located on hilly and rocky sites than on plain and flat areas and along riverbanks. Small sized trees with small girth were prefered to big trees with a wide girth during gum arabic collection. Apart from harvesting gum arabic from the trees and selling it to earn cash income, the local communities got fodder, fuel wood, traditional medicine, fencing material and fiber from the trees. Besides, gum arabic is used as food during hunger season. There is strong evidence that TEK is a useful concept for sustainable management of gum arabic trees and could be used in designing of sustainable conservation and exploitation strategies of gum arabic trees and consequently environmental conservation.
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Keywords: Acacia senegal; gum arabic; local communities; resource management; traditional ecological knowledge

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Egerton University, P.O. Box 536-20115, Egerton, Kenya. 2: Kenya Forestry Research Institute, P.O. Box 20412-00200, Nairobi, Kenya.

Publication date: 01 September 2010

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