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EWASO NG'IRO NORTH GUM ARABIC & GUM RESIN DEVELOPMENT PROJECT

PROJECT GOAL:

>> Sustainable utilisation, conservation and management natural resources for improved livelihood of the local communities in the ENNDA basin.

PROJECT OBJECTIVE:

>> To improve the economic standards of the local communities in the basin through rehabilitation, development, values addition and sustainable production of gums and resins

INTRODUCTION TO THE PROJECT

Vast areas that used to be vegetated by dry land Acacia-Commiphora bush in the Sudano-Sahelian region, including most parts of Northern Kenya, have been and are being degraded by the actions of man, aided by drought. In Kenya, the Acacia-Commiphora zone is called the nyika and is considered by many as almost useless bush land, used today by nomadic pastroralists and, as population pressures mount, by marginal farmers. This type of bush and less dense versions of it in the north of the country occupies some 80% of Kenya’s land surface.

This type of vegetation usually develops under an average annual rainfall regime of between 100 and 600 mm and under high temperatures, thus the soils associated with it are generally not well developed. When the trees are destroyed and ground cover removed by overgrazing or cultivation, the fragile soils are very susceptible to erosion by wind and water. This process, called "desertification”, results in lowering productivity of the land and decreases in food production. During drought periods, the process speeds up dramatically and results in famine and environmental refugees. This trend requires to be arrested and to be reversed but since populations continue to increase and people must have land to survive, solutions to ASAL degradation are not readily available.

It is possible that, the thorn bush country previously thought almost worthless could in fact be natural resource gold mines. Trees such as Acacias, Commiphora, Boswellia, Sterculia and many other others in these dry lands produce gums, resins, oils and other extracts that are currently in demand for industrial-scale use. The benefits to Kenya and specifically to inhabitants of ASAL areas could be enormous: the creation of employment and new industries, foreign exchange earnings and land conservation and rehabilitation.

The challenge here is to halt the destruction of the Acacia-Commiphora bush land resources and to use it as a basis for improving the income base of ASAL communities for purposes of reducing poverty occasioned by increasing proneness to drought. The strategy proposed here is to develop means for promoting sustainable economic exploitation of gums, resins and other products of trees and shrubs which grow in this ecosystem as a way of enhancing interest in their conservation.


PROJECT RETIONALE & PREPARATORY STUDIES

The national development agenda is guided by Kenya Vision 2030 which is motivated by a collective aspiration for a much better society by the year 2030. Vision 2030 aims to make Kenya a globally competitive and prosperous country with a high quality of life by 2030.

It is with this background that the primary objective of Ewaso Ng’iro North Development Authority (ENNDA) through Ewaso Ng’iro North Gum Arabic and Gum Resins Development Project intends to contribute towards poverty alleviation, employment creation, social integration, community empowerment, environmental management and socio-economic development in the Basin.

Gum Arabic:
Gum Arabic from Kenya is a product of Acacia Senegal var. kerensis. The product is widely used as an emulsifier in foods, diet drinks; ink, in textiles, paper, adhesives, and paints. 80% of the world’s production comes from the Sudan. Many parts of Kenya have Acacia senegal trees and the global market is virtually unlimited if prices can be rationalized with increased production. Acacia mellifera and Acacia seyal both of which are common in Northern Kenya also produce a variety of commercially utilised gum.

Myrrh:
Myrrh is an ancient resin traditionally used since biblical times as an incense, in perfume, and lately as a flavouring additive in soft drinks and sweets. The product is natural exudate produced by members of the genera Commiphora. True myrrh is a natural exudate of the species Commiphora myrrha, which is a native of Wajir District in Kenya. Kenya produces over 90% of all myrrh traded in the world market (Qureshi Ahmed, pers. comm.). Other types of myrrh include Haggar also called Opopanax; a product of the tree Commiphora holtziana which widely occurs in the Kenya ASAL. Opopanax has properties and uses similar to those of true myrrh but fetches lower prices in the market. The resin also has insecticidal properties on account of which, it is used to kill ticks. Commiphora africana, which occurs widely in all the Northern Kenya Districts, is also known to produce gums and resins and has the highest recorded uses among members of the genera commiphora.

Frankincense:
Frankincense, also called Olibanum is a product of the shrub Boswellia neglecta, a native of the Dry Acacia-Commiphora woodlands in Kenya. Frankincense is mainly derived from the sap of B, neglecta and is widely used as a scenting agent in perfumes, lotions, etc. Among the Pokot and Turkana, stems of the shrub are burned to repel house insects while the Rendille use it as a source of chewing gum and resin.

Gum Arabic exported from Kenya in 2003 used to fetch about Ksh. 150 per kg in the world market which would imply a gross earning in the excess of Ksh. 170 million (US$ 2.5 million). Further, given that collectors earned Ksh. 100 per kg of raw gum delivered, close to Ksh. 120 million must have been injected into pastoral economies from Gum Arabic alone in 2003 and this amount would probably more than double upon computation of earnings from sale of gum resins. It is also generally understood that substantial amounts of Gum Arabic and Gum Resins from Northern Kenya and Wajir District in particular are exported through neighbouring countries unrecorded implying that the total export volumes, and by implication earnings from gums and gum resins is actually higher than currently estimated.

For an economy currently characterised by reliance on a declining livestock trade and relief food, the potential for pastoral communities to earn an annual Kshs. 120 million from sale of gums and gum resins would greatly improve their ability to access food and other essential services and thereby enhance their ability to cope with drought and aridity. And given that gums and resins are products of the local natural vegetation whose production and yield is induced by the local aridity, their development offers the most viable vehicle for diversification of the local pastoral economy and is thus a strategic intervention towards poverty reduction

PROJECT STATUS & PICTORIALS