Mali plans to plant thousands of acacia trees hectares. The trees have the potential to slow desert expansion. The state of Mali supports sustainable trade in Arabic gum.
Savana Sahel leads across the six West African countries. It rains only three months a year in this arid strip of land between tropical rainforests. Climate change has caused the Sahara Desert to enlarge 100 km to the south over the past 70 years. Experts expect the desert will continue to expand.
Forests generally prevent the desert spread because they retain water and prevents erosion. The trees from which Arabic gum is obtained grow on the Sahara border and slow down its expansion. The acacia trees line the Sahara’s boundaries. They have the potential to stop the desert spread.
Arabic Gum Sustainable Trade
Arabic gum is obtained from two tree species, the acacia senegal, and the acacia seyal. The traditional Arab gum trade began about 2,500 years ago and is a source of income for locals so far.
Its unique properties, such as the ability to bind substances, are processed in many industries. The ancient Egyptians added Arabic gum to mummifying ointments and hieroglyphic paints. Today, this raw material is part of many products, including soft drinks, sweets, toppings, cheese, and pharmaceuticals.
Acacia Trees Sustainable Plan
Mali is a leading producer of Arabic gum. By the 1960s, Mali had produced 10,000 tonnes of Arabic gum a year. From the 1960s to the present, 82% of Mali’s forests have disappeared. The climate crisis, forest fires, and tree felling caused the loss of almost 450,000 hectares (1.1 million acres) between 2001 and 2018.
Mali’s Acacia Project is supposed to plant 1,250 hectares (3,090 acres) acacia trees (acacia senegal) in Nara County, near Mauritania. Farmers and schools are involved in the project to achieve the goal: to plant 6,000 hectares (14,800 acres) of trees in different parts of the country.
This sustainable plan will provide livelihoods for more local people. It will slow down the desert spread, and also help reduce emissions. According to the Institute for Rural Economics, 190,000 tons of CO2 were isolated on the plantations between 2007 and 2012.
Source: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200924-africa-how-gum-arabic-could-hold-back-the-sarah-desert; credit: Autor: Simon A. Eugster – CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48712562