Gum Arabic, a hidden treasure of Africa

Gum arabic

Gum arabic is a type of gum that is used in everything from a food stabilizer to inks and textiles. It comes from the hardened sap of the Acacia Senegal and the Acacia Seyal trees.

"...Gum Arabic is used basically in production of high quality sweets, chocolates or high brand sweets, and this is how it was traditionally used in Europe. It is transported from Sudan through a Red Sea port called Soukin, and then to Europe; later on, its use in medicines begun because gum is a good instrument for making a capsule. Like for sweet production when mixing sugar and cornflower, using gum puts them together. It's a holding agent for sugar and other materials. Whenever you have something difficult to swallow then you put it inside and then you coat it, and after you swallow it is absorbed..."-Mussa Mohamed Karama

In Africa today, individual farmers use gum arabic for other, more traditional uses, and heaps of the gum can be found in most local markets. It is said to soothe sore throats, assuage stomach and intestinal disorders, treat eye problems and combat hemorrhages and the common cold. It can be used as an emollient, astringent or cosmetic. The seed pods of Acacia senegal, 8 to 13 centimeters long (3–5") with flat seeds inside, make excellent fodder for livestock. Left unprotected, the trees will be browsed by sheep, goats, camels, impala and giraffe.

Dried and preserved seeds are eaten by some people as a vegetable. When the trees have passed their gum-bearing age, the wood is used both for fuel and in charcoal production. The dark heartwood is so hard that it makes excellent weavers’ shuttles. Ropes can be made from root bark fibers.

The gum is also used in sweeteners and as an additive in foods and beverages, as a thickener in liquids, including soft drinks, and in food flavorings. It is used to manufacture pharmaceutical capsules and to coat pills, and in the manufacture of vitamins, lotions and mascara and other cosmetics. Gum arabic is also a valuable addition to sweets, one supplier’s Web site adds, “including chocolates, jujubes, and cookies.” Read more

This treasure of Africa is the reason why people enjoy Pepsi or Coca Cola. The world needs these resources for sustainability.Frank Weston made me curious about the gum, and I did some research. Check out Frank Weston's speech, towards the end he talks about the gum.

I believe Africans should benefit immensely from such a product. Agroprocessing should be widespread in Africa, for the continent to develop.

Gum arabic

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A common and traditional definition of agroprocessing industry refers to the subset of manufacturing that processes raw materials and intermediate products derived from the agricultural sector. Agroprocessing industry thus means transforming products originating from agriculture, forestry and fisheries. The African Business report had a story about this gum and Sudan.

Is it harmful or harmless?

If you like information on Gum arabic, check out this news on the African mango

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