Acacia gum production funds desertification prevention in Africa: ‘We want to create concrete impact’

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

The new foundation will be funded by gum arabic producer Alland & Robert. GettyImages/mirzamlk
The new foundation will be funded by gum arabic producer Alland & Robert. GettyImages/mirzamlk

Related tags: Acacia gum, acacia fiber, Gum arabic

French producer of acacia gum Alland & Robert has established a company foundation to help prevent desertification in Africa. “Our sole objective is to support African communities and fight the desertification of lands, droughts, or lack of access to services such as schools, hospitals or water,” marketing manager Violaine Fauvarque tells FoodNavigator.

Statues for the Alland Company Foundation were filed on 11 May 2021.

The Foundation has two main priorities: to support local communities, and particularly women, in terms of education, health and infrastructure, and to preserve the African environment and biodiversity, especially in countries where Alland & Robert operates.

The Foundation will be solely funded by Alland & Robert, but marketing manager Violaine Fauvarque stressed the company will not benefit in any way from the Foundation’s work.

“Creating a foundation is a decision of the company to assign resources to the fulfilment of a public interest and not-for-profit purpose,” ​she told FoodNavigator. “The Foundation operates independently from Alland & Robert.

“Our sole objective is to support African communities and fight the desertification of lands, droughts, or lack of access to services such as schools, hospitals or water.”

Restoring the Sahel region

Alland & Robert is a leading producer of acacia gum – otherwise known as gum arabic, acacia fibre or E414. The food additive is sourced from specific species of acacia trees across the African ‘gum belt’. This region stretches from Senegal to Eritrea.

The exudate is a natural emulsifier, stabiliser, texturiser, and is a source of fibre. Acacia gum can also be used to extend a product’s shelf life and improve mouthfeel.

Desertification is a growing concern across the gum belt. However, acacia trees, which capture nitrogen, can help nourish the soil and revive some of its lost fertility. Plantations also act as windbreakers, which serve to prevent further erosion.

In the Sahel region – located between the Sahara and the Sudanian savanna – desertification is of particular concern. In this area, the consequences of climate change are significant, and compounded by the advance of the Sahara.

“Since the creation of Alland & Robert in 1884, the company has been operating and sourcing raw materials in the Sahel. Our CEO Frédéric Alland has been travelling to several African countries for over 35 years,”​ explained Fauvarque.

“Since the 1980s, the Sahel has been affected by recurrent periods of drought. These droughts have threatened the livelihoods and future of entire populations across the region. Alland has witnessed the impacts of the climate crisis, and the rapid degradation of the natural environment. The Sahel is one of the regions most affected by climate change in the world. Alland & Robert wants to act and create concrete impact.”

In 2007, the Great Green Wall initiative was established to combat desertification across the Sahel. Its objective was to restore 8,000km to nature across the entire width of Africa. At least 15% of the project has been completed.

Last year, Alland & Robert partnered with UK based NGO Tree Aid, a participant in the Great Green Wall project, to help plant 3,600 trees (approximately 36 hectares) across the Sahel.

Now, such work will fall under the Alland Company Foundation, giving Alland & Robert the ‘necessary frame to its actions’. The foundation will primarily finance local initiatives and organisations.

Projects under the new foundation

Last year, Alland & Robert participated in a number of initiatives across the gum belt. These include a projet designed to reduce poverty in Mali, where over the past 10 years the Koulikoro region has lost 86% of the forests to deforestation. Alland & Robert is helping train farmers to grow and protect trees, and restore degraded lands in the region.

Another project sees the company help establish effective community forest governance in Niger. In particular, Alland & Robert is supporting families develop businesses based on tree products, including acacia gum.

And in Ethiopia, Alland & Robert is supporting communities in Dugda-Meki restore their local environment, build sustainable businesses, and grow nutritious food.

Moving forward, and under the aegis of the Foundation, Alland & Robert will continue its partnership with Tree Aid. Other projects include a collaboration with the Batali association in Central Africa, where the Foundation is working to provide schools and resources to local communities.

“In Sudan, we are looking to continue our project in El Humera to build more water tanks, and we will try to expand our work in this country, as it is one of the main producing countries for gum acacia,” ​Fauvarque told this publication.

“And we are open to other projects – we have a number of projects that we are currently exploring.”

 

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