Should gum in lipstick and ice-cream leave Ethiopia dry and abandoned?

Popular products such as ice cream and lipstick contain gum. Gum arabic is produced from trees in dry zones in the Sahel region in Africa. Areas where gum is collected are under threat from erosion, drought and desertification. Incomes of collectors are low because they do not collect enough and not of the right quality. The trees from which they collect are used for firewood or are damaged by grazing cattle. Their livelihoods are under direct threat! This leads to people making the difficult decision to leave their region or country to safeguard their lives.

“Together with ProFound we intend to develop clear solutions for dry-land areas in Ethiopia – using market demand for gums and other natural ingredients to improve the livelihoods of collectors and their communities, through improved quality and linking companies to better-paying buyers. The GROWBOXX plant cocoons we develop fit perfectly in this set-up: improving the survival and growth rate of young gum trees and giving collectors the opportunity to grow other crops such as home-grown vegetables or fruit trees.

– Pieter Hoff (Groasis Tech)

A more sustainable sector will change this…

ProFound developed an innovative solution which supports entrepreneurs in Ethiopia to apply wild-collection standards to collect the right quality, at the right time, in the right way. This causes the trees to regenerate more naturally and increases volumes available for collection. Planting of more gum trees further increases available volumes and counters erosion and desertification. Introduction of other trees in the area can improve soils, offer new income sources or can be used for food.

With documentation in order and traceability of their product in place, collectors will get a higher price for their products. At the same time, exporters in Ethiopia are able to target better paying customers in the West who are willing to pay a premium for a sustainable product. This provides better incomes along the chain, and the European consumer with the security that he is using a sustainable product.

Solutions for this story

ProFound Solutions for a sustainable gum value chain

  • Market Analysis for gums and other possible trees to be grown
  • Organising companies, their communities and government organisations to make a plan and work together in making it easier for everyone to do business
  • Business Planning on how to develop a sustainable value chain
  • Support of companies for better collection practices, quality control, documentation, and certification according to the FairWild standard for sustainable wild collection
  • Setting up nursery and reforestation projects for additional trees
  • Rural Finance: Linking entrepreneurs to banks with the right financial products for them
  • Market Access: Helping entrepreneurs access premium markets by matching them with buyers at trade fairs