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The current situation and prospects for gum arabic in Kenya: a promising sector for pastoralists living in arid lands

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Gum arabic, a natural exudate produced by Acacia senegal trees, is available in abundance in Kenya, mainly in the northern part of the country, but its exploitation is marginal. This study, conducted among harvesters, traders and other actors involved in the development and business of the gum arabic industry in Kenya has shown and confirmed the results of other researches, that the supply chain is currently under-developed. Harvesters do not collect sufficient quantities of gum arabic because they are not linked to buyers, and when they are the low prices they receive discourage them from developing that income generating activity. Pastoralists currently only collect gum when they see it, and do not use modern harvesting techniques. They stand to benefit from that activity if they are more organized and if that business was more developed in the country.

Recognizing the unmet international demand for gum arabic and the largely untapped reserves growing in the wild and in abundance in the northern part of the country suggests that improvements can be made to harvesting and marketing. Through training, with specific attention to quality issues and international requirements, the constitution of stocks in collection areas and the development of direct links with traders, Kenya can penetrate the international market of gum arabic and improve its market share. Various activities have been undertaken and have already shown good results.
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Keywords: arid lands; gum arabic; industry; livelihoods; pastoralists

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institut Franais de Recherche en Afrique, PO Box 58480, Nairobi. Kenya. 2: Network for Natural Gums and Resins in Africa (NGARA), Kenyan Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), PO Box 64636-00620, Nairobi, Kenya. 3: Mandate the Future, Community Based Organization, PO Box 462, 60300 Isiolo, Kenya. 4: Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), PO Box 20412, Nairobi, Kenya. 5: CIRAD-PERSYST, Unit of Research Ecosystems of Plantations, Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute of CIAT, World Agroforestry Centre, PO Box 30677, Nairobi, Kenya.

Publication date: May 1, 2008

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