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Sudan: Equipping smallholder gum arabic farmers with tapping skills in Jabir Village

A focus group discussion with representatives of the women association, gum arabic producer association, and the Umda (Photo: ©FAO/Koen Joosten)

Jabir village is located close to the border between North and East Darfur and is part of the El Tweisha  locality, and although not that far in distance, it takes at least 4 hours to reach  from El Fasher – the State capital of North Darfur. During the FNS-REPRO inception phase, the village was selected to be part of the programme due to its presence in the vast gum Arabic belt – and the community happily accepted. With the project now in full swing, positive impacts are being recorded.  

In the Hashab forest outside the village, Mahmoud Mohammed Ahmed is tapping his trees for gum Arabic, at the start of the tapping season in November. Through FNS-REPRO, he received a “sonki” (improved tapping tool compared to the traditional axe) and training on how to best tap and manage Hashab trees. With this, he is now able to harvest higher quality gum Arabic, while protecting the trees from unnecessary damage.  

Mahmoud Mohammed Ahmed with his sonki (©FAO/Koen Joosten)
Gum arabic on the tree, from the first tapping of 2022 (©FAO/Koen Joosten)
Harvested gum arabic, that will now have to be dried first (©FAO/Koen Joosten)















A bit further down the road, trucks and excavators are working to construct a new Hafir (Murabbat) funded by FNS-REPRO, capable of storing up to 30,000 m3 of runoff water during the rainy season. This will provide much needed water for livestock, the local community, and surrounding “jubraka’s” (small agriculture gardens). Once filled after the next rains, the water will last for up to six months, providing water security in this water-stressed community, and will increase agriculture production at the same time.  

 Back in a different part of the Hashab forest, a protected tree nursery with recently planted Hashab seedlings shows how FNS-REPRO supports reforestation, carbon sequestration, and enhanced livelihood opportunities for the Jabir community. Approximately 1,100 seedlings were planted at the start of the 2022 rainy season, which are expected to grow quickly. After only two years these seedlings can be partially tapped, and full gum Arabic production is possible after five years. With the rains from the last season, the seedlings are now well-established and able to survive without any supplemental irrigation. FNS-REPRO, together with implementing partner FNC, is closely following the establishment and growth of the seedlings, including survival rate and future gum Arabic production.  

 Back in the village, the association of gum Arabic producers indicates that after a dip in 2021, gum Arabic production is expected to peak in 2022. While in the 2021 season only 1,430 MT was harvested, they expect that this year production will reach up to 3,000 MT. They attribute this to the adoption of improved practices for tapping, harvesting and post-harvesting of gum Arabic provided through the FNS-REPRO programme.

One of the seedlings planted in 2022, that will grow to a mature tree in five years (©FAO/Koen Joosten)
Construction of a new Hafir (Murabbat) outside Jabir village (©FAO/Koen Joosten)

Together with the improved seeds for cash crops such as groundnuts and sesame, as well as sorghum and millet provided by FNS-REPRO, they are seeing an increase in their income from agriculture. Farmer Field Schools established in the area in 2022 have been successful with average groundnut production of 18 sacks per acre and some farmers recorded a harvest of up to 525 sacks.  Some farmers have also started income generating activities mainly in transport, livestock keeping and small enterprises leading to more diversified income sources and overall increase in income by approximately 17%. The additional income is being used to pay for school fees, food, health, and water.  

 This integrated package of interventions, focusing on increased quantity and quality of gum Arabic production, reforestation, water access, and increased cash crop production, has been enthusiastically received by the Jabir community, who are ambitious about the future, and eager to better connect to the gum Arabic sector in the rest of Sudan.