Strengthen sustainable landscape management (SLM) in targeted productive ecosystems for the preservation and regeneration of Acacia senegal and Acacia seyal.
Mauritania used to be the second largest exporter of gum arabic with an average annual production of 5,700 tonnes between 1968 and 1972. Due to droughts that increased desert landscape to cover two-thirds of the country’s land area now, unsustainable human exploitation practices such as deforestation for agriculture, and over exploitation of gum, wood, food, and fodder resources, gum arabic’s current production had shrunk to 500 tonnes annually. Gum arabic is produced from two tree species: Acacia senegal that produces high-quality gum, and Acacia seyal. Both species are known to help fight desertification. With this backdrop, the sustainable landscape management (SLM) project funded by the World Bank and Global Environment Facility (GEF) was launched in Mauritania in 2015 and this is set to end in 2021.
Introduction of Basic Terms
What does SLM mean?
Sustainable landscape management pertains to the use of land and water resources, taking into account both the needs of production and service functions of the ecosystem within the larger landscape.
What is gum arabic?
Gum arabic is a dried exudate obtained from the stems and branches of certain species of Acacia trees that mainly grow in arid wooded savannas in sub-Saharan Africa. It is commercially valuable due to its wide application in the manufacture of food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, printing materials, ceramics, and textiles.
Difference Between Acacia senegal and Acacia seyal
The main geographical area for Acacia senegal and Acacia seyal is the gum belt of Africa, which is the vast arid wooded savannas that span sub-Saharan Africa, from Mauritania and Senegal in the west to Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, and the United Republic of Tanzania in the east.
Acacia senegal grows best in deep, sandy, and well-drained soils in areas with average precipitation between 200 and 500 millimetres (mm) per year and a bioclimate of the warm subdesert type (i.e., dry season of 9 to 11 months per year). It can be found also in poorly drained soils (such as light sandy-clay soil, brown clay, or clay sandstone) in areas receiving up to 800 mm of rain per year and a bioclimate of the dry tropical type (i.e., dry season of 8 months per year).
Acacia seyal thrives in clay, sandy-clay, and sandy soils that are often flooded in winter. It grows frequently on alluvial plains and previously cultivated grounds. From the climatic point of view, it is found in areas with isohyets ranging between 200 and 1000 mm per year and bioclimates ranging from the warm subdesert type to the strongly tropical type (i.e., dry season of 7 to 8 months per year).
The World Bank and GEF partnered with 12 countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, and Togo) to develop the US$1.1 billion Sahel and West Africa Program (SAWAP) that supports the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI), an African initiative to transform the Sahel into a stable, sustainable, resilient region through improved management of natural resources, land, water, and climate risks. The SLM project under SAWAP, which started in 2015 and set to end in 2021, is supporting Mauritania with US$ 4.81 million as grant.
The SLM project focuses on promoting sustainable landscape management practices for the regeneration of productive ecosystems, with special emphasis on Acacia species producing gum arabic. The project selected three regions (Trarza, Brakna, and Gorgol) based on their landscape characteristics and poverty levels. It targets to cover 39 communes with a total beneficiary population of 480,000.
The expected outcomes are 1) enhanced biodiversity, water, and soil conservation and vegetation and soil carbon storage, and 2) improved livelihood resilience of communities involved in the production and sale of gum arabic and other sought after natural products (nontimber forest products and fodder), and the development of sustainable gum arabic value chain by enhancing access to commercial markets.
1. Sustainable Landscape Management Knowledge, Governance, and Partnerships to enhance the SLM knowledge and the gum arabic value chain, in particular, among stakeholders at the national and local levels that include government agencies, local communities, non-profit organisations, and the private sector. The activities are implemented by a) Providing institutional and capacity support to the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MEDD) and local government agencies to enhance their SLM ability with focus on degraded gum arabic ecosystems, and training programmes for communities involved in gum arabic production; b) Strengthening MEDD ecosystem monitoring services through technical and financial support to determine changes in production of gum arabic and other nontimber forest products and fodder, and changes in biodiversity conservation, water and soil conservation, and vegetation and soil carbon storage capacity; and c) Development of a sustainable gum arabic value chain by evaluating the current situation and making policy and regulatory recommendations for improvement.
2. Sustainable Landscape Management Practice to strengthen management and SLM practices in degraded gum arabic-producing ecosystems, and enhance the integration of SLM in local development planning in the regions of Trarza, Brakna, and Gorgol. This component focuses on increasing the productivity of gum arabic through regeneration and conservation, and exploitation control activities as well as enrichment of other dwindling species that produce nontimber forest products and fodder.