The Uganda government, through an initiative by H.E. the President, seeks to empower the Karamoja people harness the potential of their natural resources. This initiative hopes to promote sustainable utilization of gum arabic and related dryland products for improved livelihood and biodiversity conservation. The Uganda government, specifically His Excellency, the President, believes that, engaging the local communities in harvesting and marketing of gum arabic and other related dryland resources will not only reduce poverty, but also reduce idleness, change attitude on over reliance on livestock as a means of living and therefore indirectly limit cases of cattle rustling and insecurity in Karamoja region.
A task force was therefore appointed and tasked with implementing the presidential initiative on the development of gum arabic in the Karamoja Region as an alternative source of income for the communities.
The Network for Natural Gums and Resins in Africa (NGARA), was identified as a potential collaborator in this initiative. A visit was arranged to the NGARA Secretariat from 22nd to 30th June, 2006 by some members of the taskforce.
The main purpose of the visit was to discuss collaboration and in particular, prepare terms of reference (ToRs) related to the Development of Gum Arabic and related dryland commodities in Karamoja Region of Uganda.
The team, an official delegation of the Ugandan Government, was hosted by NGARA, where a series of meetings were held with various stakeholders and players in the gums, resins and aloe industry and visits made to different parts of the country.
During the mission, it was decided that the Karamoja program will have to be addressed at two levels:-
1. Fast tracking the mapping and assessment of gum arabic resources.
2. Medium and long term development of gum arabic, resins and other commercially important dryland resources/ commodities.
The Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources (RCMRD), Nairobi, Kenya was identified as a key partner with NGARA to coordinate activities of resource mapping.
Consequently, an inaugural mission was planned to Uganda to initiate the activities for the development of the Uganda Programme on Gum Arabic and Related Dryland Resources with the following terms of reference (ToRs): -
1. RCMRD to coordinate mapping and assessment of gum arabic resources initially, based on scoping approach.
2. NGARA to coordinate a reconnaissance survey to verify varieties of gum arabic resources including the quality of the resource as well as allied resources with commercial potential.
3. NGARA to carry out an appraisal of the local capacity in the region with regard to gum arabic production.
The inaugural mission took place from 13th to 23rd September 2006 comprising of the following team members:
1. Dr Ben Chikamai - NGARA Coordinator.
2. Mrs. Sheila Shefo Mbiru - NGARA Information and Database Expert
3. Mr. Eric Khamala - (Representative of the Director General, RCMRD)
The team held consultations in Kampala with gum arabic stakeholders to identify key players in terms of individuals and organisations who will be implementing the “Uganda Program on Gum Arabic and Allied Resources”. Meetings were also held with District leaders in Moroto, Kotido and Kaabong to sensitise the district leadership on the potential of gum arabic and other resources for livelihood support for the Karamojong and for the leadership to embrace the project.A rapid stakeholder analysis was undertaken and in addition a reconnaissance survey of the gum arabic producing and other dryland species, to verify the species and their spatial distribution. The RCMRD was able to undertake a preliminary assessment of the resources, initiate acquisition of relevant data and meet local stakeholders who will be involved in the mapping activity.
The team held consultations in Kampala with gum arabic stakeholders to identify key players in terms of individuals and organisations who will be implementing the “Uganda Program on Gum Arabic and Allied Resources”. Meetings were also held with District leaders in Moroto, Kotido and Kaabong to sensitise the district leadership on the potential of gum arabic and other resources for livelihood support for the Karamojong and for the leadership to embrace the project.
A rapid stakeholder analysis was undertaken and in addition a reconnaissance survey of the gum arabic producing and other dryland species, to verify the species and their spatial distribution. The RCMRD was able to undertake a preliminary assessment of the resources, initiate acquisition of relevant data and meet local stakeholders who will be involved in the mapping activity.
During the inaugural mission the team had the honour and pleasure of meeting with H.E President Yoweri Museveni. The meeting took place at Soroti State Lodge on the 23rd of September 2006.
The team was accompanied by the Special Presidential Advisor (African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) and Trade) Engineer Yorokamu Katwiremu and members of Uganda Gum Arabic Cooperative (UGAC).
Dr. Chikamai briefed President Museveni on the progress of the gum arabic initiative, specifically on the resource mapping. He also informed the President that Karamoja is well endowed with other natural resources with potential for commercial exploitation namely; aloes, tamarinds and shea nut butter.
President Museveni stated that the Government of Uganda is willing to invest 50:50 with a private investor to set up a factory processing Aloe secundiflora in Moroto and he requested that the assessment of cashew nut resources in Northern Uganda should also be included in this program.
1. Resource Mapping and Assessment of gum arabic and aloe producing species.
This activity of resource mapping was spearheaded by the experts from the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD). A report entitled; Uganda Program On Gum Arabic, Aloe And Allied Dryland Resources:Resource Mapping, Assessment And Strengthening Of The Local Capacity detailing the methodology, results and preliminary maps showing location, distribution and densities was presented to the Government of Uganda in February 2007.Further ground truthing and verification is being undertaken before final maps and a harmonized report are produced.
2. Resource Identification
Plant taxonomists undertook taxonomical identification within the selected areas by species, sub species and varieties that produce gum arabic (including potential adulterants), Aloe and other dryland resources in Karamoja region. A detailed taxonomical description of all the identified species was provided.
3. Capacity Building
The training of subject matter specialists, producers and collectors was carried out in March 2007 in the following areas:
a). Gum arabic and aloe resources
b). Rapid resources assessment
c). Best harvesting practices
d). Cleaning and sorting
e). Storage and packaging