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Environmental destruction takes toll on gum Arabic harvest in Karamoja

Karimojong Gum Arabic farmers attending training in Moroto.

Moroto, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT | The massive destruction of the environment in Karamoja region has taken a huge toll on the harvest of gum Arabic. Gum Arabic is an alternative source of livelihood for several households in Karamoja region. Several families collect gum Arabic from tree in the bushes for sale.  

However, most trees that produce the gum have been cut down for charcoal burning.  Jimmy Lomokol, the Chairperson Karamoja Gum Arabic Association in Karamoja region, says the massive cutting of trees for burning charcoal has affected the production of the gum. He explains that planting the trees is very hard given the climate situation in the region. 

According to Lomokol, there is high demand for gum Arabic within and outside Uganda. He says a kilogram of gum Arabic costs Shillings 1,000 and costs between US$900-1,000 per ton (approx. UGX 2.3M) at Mombasa. “This gum is very expensive and has a high demand but our people here don’t mind about it, we have tried to sensitise them not to destroy but they are not listening to us,” he said.   

Gum Arabic is used in the production of food stabilizers, ink and textile. It comes from the hardened sap of the acacia Senegal and acacia seyal tress, which grow wildly in Karamoja region. Apart from textile, the gum also is used in printing, photography, pharmaceutical industries and production of soft drinks, syrups, sweets, glue and paints among others.

Sarah Angolere, a mother of five children, who has benefiting from collecting the gum, says it is a very lucrative business and alternative source of livelihood for many women and men who could not afford to dig. “By now we could be harvesting the gum because this is the time but now all the trees that produce gum have been destroyed,” she said.   

Joyce Naput, another beneficiary blames the destruction of the gum Arabic trees on the prevailing peace in Karamoja region. According to Naput, much as they are happy with the t prevailing peace, it has ushered more problems into the region.

“Before peace prevail in Karamoja, nobody could go to the bush to cut trees because people were fearing insecurity but now with the current peace people are moving up and down freely,” she said. In 2010, President Museveni injected over Shillings 10billion in an effort to promote gum Arabic in Karamoja.

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