Training in new production methods and financing through microcredit are allowing gum arabic producers to protect forests and improve their income.
Hosna Abker Ahmed Ismail, 34, is a farmer in Abu Hamra, a village in Sudan’s Um Ruwaba locality of North Kordofan. Until last year, she tended a small garden and helped in gum arabic cultivation—tapping trees to produce this marketable gum. Like many women in this poverty-stricken rural area, she struggled to find fuel for cooking and the resources to feed her family of eight.
Over the past year, Hosna Abker has participated in the Near East Foundation’s Sustainable Gum Arabic Production project—a project that has changed her life.
Hosna is one of 400+ producers that received training through the project. Many also benefited from the project’s microcredit funds, which give farmers loans to obtain the supplies they need to help grow their business.
“Before the trainings, I did not care about gum arabic trees,” she said. “I cut the trees for wood. I used very bad tools for tapping. I stored the gum in plastic bags, which changed its color, smell, and shape—and reduced the market price.”
Through trainings, Hosna Abker learned how to use better tools for tapping (the sonki). She learned how to properly collect, clean, and store gum to retain its highest value; she also learned how to sort, dry, and store seeds for future planting. She learned the environmental importance of the gum arabic forests.
Based on her new knowledge, Hosna Abker no longer wanted to have to cut gum arabic trees for fuel. She applied for a microcredit grant to purchase a butane gas cooker. This cooker lasts for several months, and allows her a number of extra hours each day – time she previously spent collecting wood. She now spends more time with her children, and more time helping with other income generating activities – tapping trees, working in her garden, and improving her family’s livelihood.
With her new knowledge and resources, Hosna Abker’s outlook has changed. She has more hope for the future.
“Before the trainings, I just cared for my garden,” she said. “Now I will improve my life through agriculture, gum arabic, and microcredit projects. I will do more to increase my activities in the future, so as to improve my life, increase my family income, and achieve my hopes.
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