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Developing capacities of gum arabic farmers in Sudan

A gum arabic farmer in Sani Karaw village, North Darfur, practices gum arabic tapping using the Sonki. This is a long wooden pole tipped with a straight shaped pike blade with curved “bill hook” and point. The Sonki is driven under the bark of the tree without penetrating the wood, between the outer bark and inner cambium, and allows a strip of bark to be removed, stimulating gum exudation on the exposed strip : FAO/Michela Carucci

FNS-REPRO activities in Sudan are implemented in North and East Darfur states and are centred on the gum arabic value chain. Gum arabic is a strategic sector for the Government of Sudan, generating social, economic and environmental dividends for thousands of vulnerable communities in the region. The gum-arabic business is booming because of the growing international demand of natural resin which is widely used in food, soft drinks, cosmetics and medicines.

The Darfur region presents favourable conditions for the production of high-quality gum arabic, from the acacia senegal tree, commonly known as Hasab. However, producers and upstream value chain actors face key challenges concerning productivity, negotiating good farm-gate prices, access to market and finance.

Millions of farmers and livestock producers in Darfur depend very much on the successful outcome of the summer agricultural season, which lasts from June up to September/October. This is the only rainy season in Sudan and farmers in Darfur rely almost entirely on rain-fed production systems. In the project's target areas, the average rainfall goes from 250mm-350mm in the Northern part (North Darfur state localities) to 500-600mm in the southern part (East Darfur state localities).

During the farming season in 2020, FNS-REPRO in Sudan supported 3 000 small and medium-scale households with a customized set of acacia senegal seedlings and seeds, mixed food and cash crops, and a set of basic tools to support integrated production methods. Each beneficiary was entered into a digital database which will allow the project team and implementing partners to follow up on their progress and challenges. In Darfur, activities to improve the capacity of gum arabic farmers in good harvesting and post-harvesting practices were carried out.

Zakaria Adam Ibrahim in front of his garden of acacia senegal in Lawabit village, North Darfur state. Photo: FAO/Michela Carucci

A new way of life for Zakaria


Zakaria Adam Ibrahim is a young farmer in Lawabit village, North Darfur state. He is a part of the village community committee established by FNS-REPRO to promote a participatory and inclusive decision-making process in project implementation activities. Zakaria attended FNS-REPRO’s training on good gum arabic harvesting and post-harvesting practice, which he shared with the project team.  ‘When my father died three years ago, my family and I inherited approximately 100 acacia senegal trees. Before meeting the FAO team and learning about FNS-REPRO, I was not aware of the economic potential of gum arabic,’ he says. ‘I did not have any expertise in gum arabic and since my father died, I have never tapped the trees.’

Despite the long tradition in the cultivation of acacia senegal trees, protracted years of conflict and deliberated actions to keep the Darfur region underdeveloped have contributed to negative coping strategies. Communities started cutting trees for energy purposes and stopped engaging in gum arabic tapping as a key source of income. Over time, many farmers especially the younger generation, are now not aware of the economic and environmental potential that farming the tree can generate for the food security and resilience of their families.