Communities to benefit more from trees in NE Sudan

04 June 2009 | News story

Natural resources in NE Sudan offer win-win solutions: natural products from indigenous trees and other plants are well adapted to local climatic conditions, they contribute to environmental conservation and they can contribute to sustainable income generation in local communities.

North Eastern Sudan has a wealth of natural resources that are critical to the livelihoods and income generation of local communities. Yet, poverty is high in the region and the need for wealth creation opportunities is great. Improved marketing of natural resources has potential in Sudan – the recent fall of the decades-longmonopoly on the export of the well known commodity Gum Arabic is just one of the many opportunities.

“This event is very timely – it is just two weeks ago that the Sudanese Government decided to abandon the over 40 decades of monopoly on the Sudanese Gum Arabic Trade. This is now the chance for communities to benefit more equitably and truly participate in the trade” said Dr. Abdelazim Mirghani Ibrahim, Director General, Forest National Corporation Sudan.

“Indigenous plants are well adapted to local conditions, resilient against climatic events and have a history of knowledge and use by local people especially the most vulnerable,” said Kristy Faccer, IUCN Livelihoods and Landscape Programme Advisor, Markets and Incentives.

Globally the current market for natural resources is estimated at USD 7-10 billion for the top 110 products. In Sudan, the contribution of forests are estimated at 12% of the national GDP and Gum Arabic from the tree Acacia senegal accounts for 13.6% of the national export income. Among others, Gum Arabic is used in soft drinks, chewing gums and pharmaceutics. It has been traditionally harvested for over 5,000 years and has become an important international commodity. The gum can be sustainably harvested and the trees used in agro-forestry schemes as they improve the soil through nitrogen fixation. The recent policy change markes an important opportunity to recover the value of this product through improved marketing, benefit schemes and management of the indigenous resource.

Besides Gum Arabic local communities in North Eastern Sudan use a variety of other natural products derived from trees – firewood for cooking, wild fruits to complement the diet, fodder for animals, medicinal plants, gums and resins. Especially for the more vulnerable households many of these natural resources provide important income opportunities and safety nets free of charge in times of hardship (droughts, crop failures, etc). The pods of the tree Acacia nilotica are collected for sale on the market as a traditional medicine against cold or for tanning of hides. The fruits of the tree Grewia tenax are vitamin rich, used for juices and medicines and fetch a very high market price.

Community representatives and foresters from Kassala and Gedaref State identified potential natural resource products indigenous to North Eastern Sudan, discussed challenges and their potential and agreed on a set of recommendations to be taken jointly forward to develop improved markets for a number of identified natural resources.

Osman Omer Abdalla, Director of Planning FNC stated “This workshop helps us to not only look at the costs, but look at the income from environmental protection.”

Participants were eager to initiatea process to improve the marketing of a number of natural resource products in the region, yet did not forget the importance of trees as a safety net for greater environmental benefits:

Tahra Saad, FNC – “If prices are low people tend to cut trees. So we cannot address marketing of natural resources without raising awareness of the many other benefits that indigenous trees and plants such as Gum Arabic offer to the environment, such as improving soil conditions.”

Mr. Hamid Abdalfadil Abdal Wahab, Chair Gum Arabic Association Gedaref stated “We used to tap traditionally gums from many different trees other than Hashab (Acacia senegal) and used many different indigenous fruit trees. Now these trees are scarce. We need to replant indigenous trees. Communities should be encouraged to establish indigenous forests and shelter belts in their fields.”

Participants agreed on among others the following recommendations:

  • Identification of opportunities for enhanced flows and benefits of Gum Arabic following the policy change,
  • Improved awareness relating to the importance of management and rehabilitation of local forests and improved capacity for communities in marketing natural resources,
  • Strengthening the capacity of local communities in the sustainable harvest of natural resources,
  • Strengthening of local institutions to increasingly benefit from improved marketing of natural resources.

The workshop was opened by the Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, Gedaref State and the Director General of the Forest National Corporation. It was attended by over 40 participants from communities from Gedaref and Kassala State, FNC, UNHCR, COR, UNDP and IUCN. The workshop took place from 1st-3rd June 2009 in Gedaref and was funded by IUCN with support from FNC and UNHCR.

For more information please contact
Caterina Wolfangel, Programme Officer Drylands, IUCN Regional Office for Eastern and Southern Africa, caterina.wolfangel@iucn.org, Tel: +254 (0) 20 890605 /12