In Kenya, the territory consists of two thirds of dry or semi-arid land. A tree marks these types of landscapes: the acacia in Senegal, a shrub that resists well because it needs some water. A blessing because its dried sap is a gold mine. Sudan is the world’s leading exporter, but in Kenya a company has decided to exploit the potential of this natural resource.
From our correspondent in Nairobi,
Ekuyen Ngipetain takes a measured step and carefully examines the wild acacia trees. When she suddenly stops: “There I saw some. There are some on this tree.”
On the bush, the dried juice takes the form of small white stones. The young woman carefully avoids the prickly branches to reach the trunk and harvest the precious gum arabic.
It has not rained for more than a year so the juice is scarce. And sometimes baboons or goats eat it before it can be harvested. The young mother must therefore go further and further to find some. Still, she does not see herself stopped.
Securing an income “It allows me to support myself and buy food for my children every day, even when I only collect a little. I started a few years ago when we lost almost all of our livestock due to drought. Harvesting gum arabic is a good economic option for me. Because only dependence on animals to live is too uncertain: when they die, we have nothing left. »
Like her, many women in the village have begun harvesting gum arabic. Because in Turkana, repeated droughts threaten livestock farming, but economic alternatives are rare.
During good seasons, Ekuyen Ngipetain says she harvests up to four kilos a day, which she sells for around 1.50 euros each. A few years ago, however, there was little interest and few outlets for this rubber with emulsifying or stabilizing properties, but also an essential ingredient for the food and pharmaceutical industry.
An inexhaustible natural resource Since 2015 and with the help of funding from the European Union, Acacia EPZ has set up an entire collection circle in four of these arid regions. To then export to Europe. An exchange that contributes to local development, according to Sam Nyamboga, CEO of the Kenyan company.
“I strongly believe in the need for responsible trade. And the fact of using local natural resources to find solutions to local problems. Rubber arabic marks all these boxes. It is a resource that makes it possible to make a profit, financially of course, but also environmentally. Because communities are given an economic incentive to preserve trees. And finally, it is a company with a social impact, because having more sources of income motivates its societies, which are mostly pastoral, to move less. This allows children to follow a school plan. »
Acacia EPZ has trained more than 6,000 people in Kenya to collect gum arabic. A network that today allows you to export between 10 and 15 tons per month, mainly to Germany. But this natural resource is still largely underutilized, Sam Nyamboga explains, while demand, according to him, is “unlimited”.