Dryland Forestry

Acacia Operation Project: support to food security, poverty alleviation and soil degradation control in the gums and resins producer countries


Sahelian countries have been severely affected by drought and desertification with a significant shift southward of isohyets in the area of production of gum Arabic. Since the 70’s all countries involved in the Acacia Operation project have experienced significant worsening of climatic conditions, which adversely impacted on important production systems such as cattle-breeding, agriculture and woodlands.

Tree species producing gums generally belong to Acacia genus, which is largely spread on the continent and particularly in arid and semi-arid areas. In addition to producing gums, fodder and firewood, Acacia species ensure the maintenance of agriculture favorable conditions by protecting crops against heavy rain and wind erosion, by buffering extreme climatic conditions and especially, by restoring soil fertility.

The project 

Upon request from the Governments of Burkina Faso, Chad, Kenya, Niger, Senegal and Sudan, and funded by the Government of Italy through the Trust Fund for Food Safety and Food Security, FAO supplied assistance for the execution of the Acacia Operation project. It supported food security and rural development in the arid lands of involved gums and resins producer countries of sub-Saharan Africa. The project represented the preparatory phase of a ten-year assistance programme to countries and to the regional networks established for the development of the sectors.  


The development objective of the project was to contribute to sustainable development, food security and the fight against desertification through the promotion and integration of gum and resin production into rural economic activities in Africa.

Within this long-term goal, the project had the following immediate objective: strengthen the analytical and operational capacity of six pilot countries to address food security and desertification problems through the improvement of agro-silvo-pastoral systems and the sustainable development of gum and resin sectors.



Outputs: by strengthening local resources, the project aimed at improving and sustaining agricultural and pastoral systems, as well as diversifying and increasing household income sources, in this way contributing to the socio-economic development of concerned populations. The project focused particularly on the poorest and most vulnerable groups of rural society: women and children, most often assigned to harvest and process gums and resins.

A mechanized water harvesting technology (Vallerani System), by which micro basins can be dug while ploughing degraded soils, was adopted to develop Acacia-based agro-silvo-pastoral systems and reverse land degradation in the six pilot countries. 

For the achievement of the immediate objective, the following outputs were identified and accomplished:

  • Agro-silvo-pastoral systems in arid and semi-arid lands established and gum and resin production improved through a sound methodological approach and innovative technology.
  • A ten-year long-term programme for gums and resins producer countries elaborated.
  • Information exchange, training, technology transfer and quality control of gums and resins improved through strengthening the organization and management of the Network for Natural Gums and Resins in Africa (NGARA).

Timeline: November 2003 – June 2010.