5 November 2003, Rome -- Burkina Faso, Chad, Kenya, Niger, Senegal and Sudan will receive funding to support the production of gums and natural resins as part of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's Operation Acacia, a project funded by Italy and worth approximately $3.5 million.

The project aims to increase the quality and quantity of acacia gum produced to help the rural poor who live in the semi-arid zones of the countries bordering the Sahara to achieve self-sufficiency.

Acacia is one of the most common trees found in the arid zones of sub-Saharan Africa. A highly versatile plant, it offers several forms of income. Acacia trees also represent a vital barrier against desertification, whilst their roots are highly effective at reducing soil erosion and enriching the soil by capturing nitrogen. The plant's foliage and pods are a precious source of fodder during dry periods and the stems are used as firewood and as a material for building.

Commercially, the most important product from acacia is Arabic gum, used widely in the pharmaceutical, food and cosmetic industries.

The acacia project focuses on local people as women and children are those who collect the resin and process the raw materials.

The project will be funded by the Organization's Trust Fund for Food Security. The US$ 500 million Trust Fund was created by FAO's Director-General Jacques Diouf following the 2002 World Food Summit to provide new impetus to the global fight against hunger.

Italy has been the first among member countries to respond to this appeal and has committed itself to providing 100 million euros of which 50 million euros have already been received. Italy has already financed projects in the Caribbean and Central and Eastern Europe.

A further five Trust Fund projects have been approved and are awaiting signatures from the countries involved.

Luisa Guarneri
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 53738