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Research Report

Opportunities and challenges for sustainable production and marketing of gums and resins in Ethiopia

Mulugeta Lemenih
Habtemariam Kassa
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2011
Pages: 106
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. viii-viii)

    Ethiopia has widely differing agro-ecological zones, commonly classified into highlands – areas above 1500 metres above sea level – and lowlands, those below. Arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs), a class of drylands, are important in both the highlands and the lowlands of Ethiopia. These areas are poverty-stricken and largely food insecure, despite being endowed with resources that could provide alternative and sustainable livelihoods if they were properly exploited and developed. Vegetation in Ethiopia’s ASALs includes diverse plant species that produce commercially important oleo-gum resins such as gum arabic, frankincense, myrrh and opoponax. These products have been traded both locally and...

  2. (pp. 1-12)
    Mulugeta Lemenih and Habtemariam Kassa

    Drylands comprise the greater part of Ethiopia’s landmass. Drylands are variously defined as areas characterised by a seasonal climate with several months of drought (Murphy and Lugo 1986), areas having a growing period of ≤ 180 days or areas with an aridity index of ≤ 0.5 (UNESCO 1979). UNESCO’s aridity index refers to the ratio of potential evapotranspiration (PET) to precipitation (P); thus, all lands for which PET/P ≤ 0.5 are classified as drylands. This definition encompasses areas traditionally described as arid, semi-arid and dry subhumid, as well as the driest hyper-arid areas. Arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) are estimated...

  3. (pp. 13-46)
    Mulugeta Lemenih

    Several indigenous tree species that grow in Ethiopia’s drylands produce diverse and significant quantities of commercial gums and resins. Ethiopia is one of the world’s leading producers of incense, notably frankincense (product of Boswellia spp.) and myrrh and myrrh-like resins (products of Commiphora spp.) (Lemenih and Teketay 2003a, b, 2004). Ethiopia also has a large resource base for the production of gum arabic (product of Acacia senegal or A. seyal), although current production levels fall far short of the potential. The production and trade volumes of gums and resins in Ethiopia have been increasing since the 1990s. Between 1998 and...

  4. (pp. 47-68)
    Girmay Fitwi and Mulugeta Lemenih

    This chapter presents information on the production processes, harvesting and handling, quality control and associated constraints in Ethiopia. It also proposes measures to improve product quality and to enhance gains from the subsector at both local and national levels.

    According to oral legend, myrrh and incense production and trade in Ethiopia date back to the Aksumite Empire, which flourished around 500 BC (Gebremedhin 1998). The introduction of Christianity into the country around the 3rd century AD is believed to have increased production and trade. Despite this, hardly any historical documentation or other solid evidence exists to unequivocally support claims of...

  5. (pp. 69-86)
    Sisay Feleke and Samuel Melaku

    Natural gums are important for 2 main reasons. First, they have a wide range of industrial applications, from confectionery to cosmetics to atomic reactors, and second, gum production is a farmer-based industry providing income to farmers when it is needed most. Thus, the subsector performs an important function in terms of food security and income generation for people living in production regions. Export earnings from the subsector are important for a country with limited exports. The commercial activity is creating employment opportunities and income for an estimated 25 000–35 000 Ethiopians annually. Of these, about 90% are believed to...

  6. (pp. 87-95)
    Mulugeta Lemenih and Habtemariam Kassa

    Ethiopia’s dry forests are notably important natural resource endowments of drylands that have long contributed to human welfare and environmental health. In addition to their direct and indirect support of the livelihoods of 15–20% of Ethiopia’s population, their commercial gum and resin products make them socio-economically important resources beyond the local level. These products are generating considerable foreign currency earnings for the country, and thus government and business interest in boosting production is growing. The government has targeted dry forests in its strategy to diversify its export goods to secure foreign currency (PASDEP 2005). Such intensified interest can lead...