Anders Bekeken

100 Places To Remember: Great Kordofan Region Sudan

Geschreven op 13-5-2010 - Erik van Erne. Geplaatst in Natuur Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

100places to rememberThe Precious Glue of Sudan. Sudan, the biggest country in Africa, is also the worlds largest single producer of gum arabic. A thick belt of hashab trees (Acacia senegal), from which the gum is extracted, stretches from one end of the country to the other, supporting small-scale farmers and the Sudanese economy as a whole.

Essential to the mummification process in ancient Egypt, and used to preserve paintings since biblical times, gum arabic is still a treasured commodity. It is a natural emulsifier with the same properties as glue, yet edible by humans and highly soluble in water. In soft drinks it prevents the colour from separating and the sugar from precipitating, and it holds the ingredients in medicines together in the same way. In newspapers multiple layers of gum serve as a protective film that keeps the print consistent and permanent.

Benefiting from major global demand, small-scale farmers tap the amber-coloured gum by cutting holes into the bark. The raw sap is then sent to Europe to be processed and sold. In the last decade, however, exports have declined dramatically, partly due to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur, which has damaged Sudans reputation and had a negative impact on all exports.

Global climate change has also contributed to the decline in exports. During the last 50 years, lower than average rainfall, drought and rising temperatures have had a negative impact on the forests, affecting gum production and the lives of millions of Sudanese people.

As well as being a vital source of income, the hashab trees improve the fertility of the soil and reduce wind erosion. With temperatures projected to rise and rainfall trends unclear, the prospects for the gum arabic forests are uncertain. Any further loss of forest and income would threaten livelihoods and escalate already existing conflicts in the region.

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