- Burkina Faso, Chad, Kenya, Niger, Senegal and Sudan will receive funding to support the production of gums and natural resins and protect the environment as part of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's Operation Acacia, a project funded by Italy and worth approximately US$ 3.5 million.
The project aims to increase the quality and quantity of acacia gum produced to help the rural poor who live in the semi-arid zones of the countries bordering the Sahara to achieve self-sufficiency, according to a FAO statement published today.
Acacia is one of the most common trees found in the arid zones of sub-Saharan Africa. A highly versatile plant, it offers several forms of income. Acacia trees also represent a vital barrier against desertification, whilst their roots are highly effective at reducing soil erosion and enriching the soil by capturing nitrogen.
The plant's foliage and pods are a precious source of fodder during dry periods and the stems are used as firewood and as a material for building. The lack of firewood and fodder in poor communities is one of the principal reasons for deforestation in semi-arid areas.
Commercially, the most important product from acacia is Arabic gum, used widely in the pharmaceutical, food and cosmetic industries. Given this useful, commercial by-product, acacia trees are particularly protected from deforestation.
According to FAO, the organisation's acacia project focuses on "local people as women and children are those who collect the resin and process the raw materials." Women and children are especially vulnerable groups in poor communities.
The project is to be funded by the UN organisation's Trust Fund for Food Security. The US$ 500 million Trust Fund was created by FAO's Director-General Jacques Diouf following the 2002 World Food Summit to provide new impetus to the global fight against hunger.
Italy has been the first among member countries to respond to this appeal and has committed itself to providing 100 million euros of which 50 million euros have already been received. Italy has already financed projects in the Caribbean and Central and Eastern Europe, FAO informs.
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