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Empowering rural women: the Gum Arabic Project in Sudan
by Ibrahim Hamad
42 year-old Halima Agib lives in the remote Sudanese village of Demira, some 900 km from the capital, Khartoum. Demira’s climate is harsh, and in recent years, the area has been affected by drastically falling prices of gum, one of its natural products. As a result, farmers began cutting down the acacia trees that provide the gum, which is used in the food industry. Women, in particular, suffered: While harvesting gum is traditionally a man’s job, the drop in local incomes affected women disproportionately.
But Sudan’s women decided to take matters into their own hands. Now, Mrs Agib is one of thousands of women reviving the tradition of gum harvesting, thanks to funding and training provided by The Women’s Gum Association, founded in 2009 and sponsored by the Sudan Multi-Donor Trust Fund and IFAD-funded Gum Arabic Project.
“One day I was listening to the radio, and I heard a talk about microfinance,” recalled Mrs Agib. “People in the village were also talking about financing ‘Gum Arabic Producers Associations’ to assist them in the production process.” The married mother of two decided to investigate the matter further, after discussing the issue with other women in her village. “The women in Demira sent me to Elnuhood,” Mrs Agib said.