In the past year, Gum Arabic Producer Associations participating in the Near East Foundation’s project to support farmers and fight poverty in Sudan have increased their microcredit funds by 25 percent—from 7,500 Sudanese Pounds (SDG) to 10,000 SDG—through loan reimbursements and fees from gum farmers who have borrowed money. Having more money in the funds means more money is available to loan in support of more impoverished rural families.
Gaining access to credit is a challenge for rural farmers in Sudan’s “Gum Belt,” where poverty rates are between 60 and 95 percent. The microcredit funds provided by this project support gum producers in their harvesting activities and in livelihood diversification, offering gum producers the capital they need to operate with favorable, non-predatory lending terms.
Gum Arabic harvesting is generally financed by local traders who act as intermediaries between gum producers and gum markets. The traders provide cash, seeds, tools, and basic commodities to allow families to get through the annual “hunger season” – the window between harvesting seasons. However, farmers must reimburse this credit at unfavorable prices and pay disproportionate credit charges over which they have little power or choice.
The Near East Foundation project is helping gum producers break free of debt bondage to gum merchants, and establishing a sustainable lending mechanism—controlled by local communities—that will provide ongoing support to gum producers into the future.
NEF’s work with Sudanese Gum Arabic Producer Associations employs a three-pronged strategy to improve the livelihoods of rural families: (1) build capacity of its farmer members by providing training in sustainable forest management to improve the efficiency of their harvesting techniques to increase their production and income; (2) facilitate microcredit lending (for the first time in some places) through local associations to expand farmer operations, and free gum producers from local lending practices that keep them in poverty; and (3) support community associations to develop sustainable natural resource management.
Thank you for your generous support, which is helping farmers break the cycle of poverty and debt bondage, and preserve forest resources to ensure a healthy planet for us all!