Connecting underutilised high value tree products to markets for enhancing livelihoods and adaptation to climate change in arid and semi-arid areas : Oleo-gum resins – tapping and processing techniques | Postharvest handling, Value Addition and Marketing (Value Addition)

Thecomplex socio-economic and ecological conditions of the arid and semi-aridareas in Eastern and Central Africa (ECA) make it extra hard to address foodsecurity and improve livelihoods of people in the sub-region. Interventionsthat can provide diversified outcomes and simultaneously address aspe Read more..

Description of the technology or innovation

Thecomplex socio-economic and ecological conditions of the arid and semi-aridareas in Eastern and Central Africa (ECA) make it extra hard to address foodsecurity and improve livelihoods of people in the sub-region. Interventionsthat can provide diversified outcomes and simultaneously address aspects ofboth productivity and environmental integrity seem to be more promising(Lemenih and Teketay 2004; Worku et al. 20014). In Ethiopia, for example, thegovernment is collaborating with various partners to promote livelihooddiversification strategies, which integrate economic utilisation andenvironmental protection as a way to reduce the vulnerability of ruralcommunities to and for coping with climate change and variability (EthiopianNAPA 2007). An example of such strategies is community based management ofwoodland resources for production and marketing of various underutilised highvalue nontimber forest products (NTFPs). The products are in form of commercialoleo-gum resins, edible forest products (leafs, fruits and seeds), medicinalplants, bamboo and bee keeping products (Lemenih and Kassa 2011; Worku et al.2011). These are products that can be produced in economic quantities inpastoral and agropastoral communities. Ethiopia has the largest oleo-gum resinsbearing resources and is among the major gum-resins exporters in the ECA region(Lemenih et al. 2003; Worku et al. 2011). The gum-resin bearing resources arefrom diverse species and can be found in abundance throughout the arid andsemi-arid parts of the country. Commercially important gumresin bearing speciesinclude 12 Acacia, 5 Boswellia, 17 Commiphora and 1 Sterculia species whichproduce gum arabic/gum talha, frankincense, myrrh and myrrh types and gumkaraya. In total five types of oleo-gum resins are produced in the country(Worku et al. 2012).


However,the potential economic benefit has not been tapped sufficiently because oflimited awareness, limited access to proper tapping techniques and poor marketaccess. There are success stories of community based gum-resin production,processing and marketing in some parts of the country. In Somali Regionorganised women groups have processed oppopanax (myrrh type from Commiphoragudotti) into essential oil and bottled it.

Description of the technology

Thetechnology comprises NTFPs and their processing techniques. Apart fromoleo-gum-resins and the tapping and processing techniques, moringa products andprocessing techniques are also NTFPs.


Oleo-gum resins

Foroleo-gum resins, the technology comprises distillation equipment for valueadded processing (see Plates 3.4 to 3.6); and an improved labour saving tappingtechnique for frankincense production with enhanced recovery of the woundedtree. These techniques for tapping and processing ensure increased productionper unit of labour and sustainable harvesting with less damage to the tree.



TheMoringa tree is probably the most underutilised tropical crop. The tree isnative to India but has been planted around the world. Nutritional analysisshows that Moringa leaves are extremely nutritious. They contain larger amountsof several important nutrients than the common foods often associated withthese nutrients. These include vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium and potassium.Moringa is fast growing tree that grows to 4 m (15 feet) in a year, reaching aneventual height of 6–15 m (20–50 feet). The tree grows easily from seeds orcuttings.


CommercialisingMoringa has involved establishing its value chain, organising farmers,unemployed women and youth and training them in processing and marketing.

Assessment/reflection on utilization, dissemination & scaling out or up approaches used

Thetechnologies can serve many landless rural youth, female-headed households, andfarming households especially in the pastoral and agropastoral communitieswhich normally depend heavily on these natural resources. Their children andwomen make their day-to-day livelihood from producing and selling theseproducts. However, integrating these products into appropriate market nicheswould also serve communities outside the pastoral areas including urbanlandless people. Market intermediaries and export companies are also users ofsome the technologies. The national economies in ECA and the internationalcommunity would benefit from increased trade of these natural products. Aboveall, as NTFPs integrate economic utilisation with environmental protection, itwill benefit all humankind.


Acritical factor for successful scaling up is to first understand the immenserole and underutilised potential of NTFPs as a means for improving rurallivelihoods, household income and self-employment. The various NTFPs areproduced in remote rural areas and mostly used in urban areas. The processinvolves the pastoral and farming communities, unemployed urban youths (bothwomen and men), public and private companies. This must first be understood.The following are the critical success factors:

§  Linking production to markets, ensuringmarket for produces by creating demand among the urban communities and exportcompanies.

§  Organising the producers intocooperatives so that groups can attain economies of scale essential forcommercialising the enterprise, mobilise resources and build-up bargainingpower.

§  Involving local and regional governmentand private institutions in the whole process of commercialisation of Moringaand oleo-resins.

§  Using public media.

§  Applying the value chain concept andvalue addition which involves processing and packaging.

§  Mainstreaming these commodities withinother development agendas.

§  Conducting exhibition, training andparticipation of researchers and urban citizens in these events.


In theEthiopian example, where pastoralist and agropastoralist producers wereorganised in cooperatives, trained and linked with existing markets, theproducers generated a significant amount of income from production and sale ofNTFPs. The households concerned were able to send their children to school,improve nutrition and enhance their social standing when compared to theproducers who were not properly organised and trained. The organised andtrained groups had improved bargaining capacity, access and connectivity tomarket. With these arrangements and with enhanced accountability, the tradevolume increased, and continuous supply of products and sustainable managementof the natural resources were assured. Scaling up should therefore, focus oninvolving the local pastoral and agropastoral communities and build theircapacity to enable them add value to gum and resins and encourage supply ofcontinuous and tradable volume. This can be done by building new cooperativesand strengthening existing ones and by linking the producers and processors toappropriate markets niches.

Current situation and future scaling up

Currently,Moringa is a marketed commodity in Ethiopia. Targeted at women, they earnEthiopian birr 100/kg of leaf powder; this translates to up to birr 300–500 perweek. The Ethiopian case study had three major components: 1) scaling up theestablished model value chain for commercialisation of Moringa production; 2)value addition and linking gum-resin producers to the appropriate market nicheswithin the country; and 3) ensuring utilisation of the new tapping technology.These three components together contribute to improving income generation,self-employment and sustainable management of the forest resources in arid andsemi-arid areas.


Currenttechnologies could be scaled up in arid and semi-arid areas of Ethiopia andother Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern andCentral Africa (ASARECA) countries with similar resource base and livelihoodsystems, mainly those in the Horn of Africa. Various studies, country andregional and sub-regional reports mention that gum-resin bearing speciesincluding Moringa are indigenous to almost all ASARECA countries (Anderson andWeiping 1992; Wickens et al. 1996; Chikamai and Odera 2002; Wekesa et al. 2010;Worku et al. 2011). Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Tanzania are among the majorgum-resin exporters. Generally, Eastern Africa is referred to as a gum beltwhere many trees that produce gum grow and countries in the region share asimilar climate (FAO 2010). Thus, the technologies discussed can apply to allcountries in the sub-region, and in Central Africa.


Thereare many actual and anticipated challenges in scaling out these technologies.They include: 1) attitude of the actors; 2) low level of awareness; 3) somepolicy issues (e.g. local policy, directives that do not promote benefits toand participation of local people); 4) limited capacity for seedlingproduction; 5) scarcity of trained manpower at lower level; 6) illegal marketdue to weak links between peripheral markets and central markets; and 7) taboossurrounding participation in NTFP production and use.


Theseconstraints can be addressed by: 1) enhancing awareness creation campaignsthrough training, workshops and stakeholder consultation meetings; 2) promotingprivate sector participation in seedling production, establishment andmarketing of products; 3) building capacity of local level professionals; 4)rewarding champions at different levels; 5) setting up functional communicationnetworks for information exchange; 6) arranging incentive schemes for Moringagrowers (e.g. tax free land); 7) finding potential partnerships with local andinternational organisations; 8) establishing gum-resin producing and marketingcooperatives and linking them with markets; 9) improving policies to ensurelocal communities participation and benefits; 10) increasing research fordevelopment; and 11) mainstreaming the NTFP sub-sector into the main developmentagenda.


Lessons about the best ways to encourage many peopleto use technologies or innovations include: 1) working through cooperatives andestablishing new ones as and when necessary for successful promotion oftechnologies, knowledge and practices; 2) identifying and promoting localinstitutions such as local administrations, women’s affairs departments,community based organisations (CBOs), private commercial firms (hotels,supermarkets and cafeterias), is a fundamental element for success in promotingtechnologies; 3) joint planning of all project activities to ensure commitment,transparency by participant stakeholders and target beneficiaries; 4)participatory monitoring and field supervision with members of localinstitutions are key to ensure proper implementation of planned activities andensure achievement of desired changes; 5) establishing favourable friendlyrelationships with local administrators, elders and opinion leaders are key forsuccessful implementation of technology promotion activities; 6) showing bydoing, mainly from the research/expert and policy makers side; and 7) lobbyingthe private sector to engage and participate. 

Gender considerations

Womenand youth are the most disadvantaged groups in Ethiopian society, especially inthe arid and semi-arid areas of the country. This project involved unemployedwomen and house wives, youth and marginalised pastoral and agropastoralcommunities from production via processing to marketing of Moringa products andgum-resins. These targeted segments of the population are benefitingeconomically from their engagement in the project activities. Women and youthare organised into processing and marketing groups and have started to earnsubstantial income.

Application guidelines for the users

Theapplication and use of this innovation demands understanding of the overallnature of the commodities to be scaled up, key factors that affect absorptionby end users, and how best the technology can be communicated to users. Thus,the following major steps should be followed: 1) participatory selection ofappropriate technology recipients; 2) understand their attitudes, intentionsand interests; 3) identify key barriers in space and time that might challengetechnology transfer; 4) consider societal values (language, ethics, cultureetc.); and 5) be transparent and participatory in all aspects and do notintroduce overambitious messages.


Oncethese things have been ensured: 1) start building more trust and establish goodrelationships with all (do not further marginalise the already marginalised)stakeholders; 2) start stakeholder consultations at a smaller scale and expandslowly; 3) any decision and agreement should be reached through participatoryplanning; 4) provide samples and conduct training and capacity building; 5) tryto understand participants’ view and interests and be keen to note theirrecommendations; 6) use local elders, respected people and local experts withinthe community who can be role models and lobby for and communicate the benefitsof the technologies widely; 7) start exhibition and show up, plan for debate,discussions and brain storming and show things by doing; and 7) use varioussuccess stories and lesson learnt from other places. 

Once all these steps are achieved, establish modelcooperatives which include all interested stakeholders and loosely monitor andaddress issues and bridge gaps. Other things to do include allowing a fewindividuals to visit and learn from success stories from other places, ensuringthere is integrity and trust among the stakeholders in model cooperatives andthat proper documentation is done. 

Contact details

Name and address of the organisation:

ForestryResearch Center, Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research,

P. O.Box 30708, Addis Ababa;

Tel: +251-116460451


Name and address of presenter:


ForestryResearch Center, Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research,

P. O.Box 30708, Addis Ababa;

Email:adefires@yahoo. com;


Mobile:251-911-120221 184


Names and address of scientists involvedin generating the technology:

AdefiresWorku, Kaleb Kelemu and Wubalem Tadesse;

P. O.Box 30708,

 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia;,,

Additional information

Ethiopiahas woodland resources that host diverse gum-resins estimated at between 2.5 to3 million ha (EFAP 1994; Kindeya 2003; Mulugeta and Demel 2004). The estimatedannual gum-resin production potential of these woodlands resources is nearly300,000 tons (Table 3.1).


Table3.1: Frankincense, myrrh/opopanax and gum arabic production potential inEthiopia by administrative region

Regional state

Type of oleo-gum resin

Estimated total area (ha)

Estimated potential production (tons)

Total (tons)


(i) Olibanum, (ii) myrrh, popanax, (iii) gum acacia


(i) 250, (ii) 500, (iii) 600



(i) Olibanum, (ii) myrrh/ opopanax, (iii) gum acacia


(i) 200,000, (ii) 1,192, (iii)1,800



(i) Olibanum, (ii) myrrh/ opopanax, (iii) gum acacia


(i) 500, (ii) nd*, (iii) 700



(i) Olibanum, (ii) myrrh/ opopanax, (iii) gum acacia


(i) 2,500, (ii) 6,500, (iii) 1,700



(i) Olibanum, (ii) myrrh/ opopanax, (iii) gum acacia


(i) nd, (ii) nd, (iii) 1,100



(i) Olibanum, (ii) myrrh/ opopanax, (iii) gum acacia


(i) 6,000, (ii) 1,500, (iii) 10,000



(i) Olibanum, (ii) myrrh/ opopanax, (iii) gum acacia


(i) 57,700, (ii) 770, (iii) 2,100



(i) Olibanum, (ii) myrrh/ opopanax, (iii) gum acacia


(i) nd, (ii) nd, (iii) nd







* nd: nodata, ** Somali Regional State, *** Southern Nation, Nationalities and People.Sources: EFAP (1993); Girmy (2000 cited in Wubalem et al. 2002).


Diversity of species that beargum-resins

Ethiopiais not only known for its high potential of gum-resin production, but alsobecause of the diversity of gum-resin bearing species (Adefires 2006; Gindabaet al. 2007; Adefires and Dagnew 2008) (Table 3.2).


Table3.2: List of the major gum-resin bearing species of Ethiopia by genus





B. papyrifera

A. senegal var. senegal & var. kerensis

C. myrrha

S. setigera

B. microphylla

A. seyal Del. var. seyal and fistula

C. africana

S. stenocarpa

B. neglecta

A. polyacantha

C. habessinica


B. ogadensis

A. sieberiana

C. truncata


B. rivae

A. drepanolobium

C. boranensis


B. pirrotae

A. horrida

C. guidottii



A. mellifera

C. erythraea



A. etbaica

C. cyclophylla



A. oerfota

C. corrugata



A. paoli

C. hildebrandtii



A. stuhlmannii

C. odia Sprague



A. dealbata

C. schimperi




C. kua




C. serrulata




C. monoica




C. rostrata




C. confuse




C. terebinthina


Sources:Mulugeta et al. (2003); Adefires (2006); Mulugeta and Teshome (2006); Gin dabaet al. (2007); Wubalem et al. (2007).


Contribution to livelihood and nationaleconomy

Thesocio-economic contribution of the gum-resin is not only significant in thelivelihood of the woodland poor, but also for the well-to-do groups inEthiopia. For example, based on the study conducted in Liben Zone, SomaliRegion, Mulugeta et al. (2003) found that collection and marketing of gum-resincontribute 32% of the annual household income of the local communities. Innearby Afdger Zone, Somali Region, Adefires Worku and Dagnew Yebeyen (2008)reported the contribution of myrrh as between US$175.00 and US$610 perhousehold per year. In Borana Zone, Oromia, the contribution of gum-resins tohousehold economy was US$310.5 and US$279 in Arero and Yabel districts. Moreimportantly, these products were available when other livelihood options areeither unavailable or scarce, implying their critical role as a safety net.Gum-resins are among the major forest exports in the country.


Forexample, between 1996 and 2003, Ethiopia exported 16,019 tons of naturalgumresins worth US$20,473,058. In 2008 alone, over birr 60 million wasgenerated from gum-resins exports (, implying theincreasing trend of both revenue and export. Girmay (2000), however, reportedthat in the last decade an average of 2,928 tons of gums-resins were traded bothon domestic and international markets each year with average annual revenue ofbirr 30.3 million.


Moringa and its products

TheMoringa tree has probably been the most underutilised tropical crop. The treeis native to India but has been planted around the world and is naturalised inmany locales. In Ethiopia Moringa has been known only in Konso community asstaple food and remained unknown and unutilised in the rest parts of thecountry. But during the last two years Moringa commercialisation activities havebeen conducted by the Forestry Research Center of the Ethiopian Institute ofAgricultural Research (EAIR) in selected model woredas. Furthermore, awarenesshas been created in a few urban areas and markets have been created forunemployed women in the project intervention woredas. Remarkable results havebeen achieved and such successes can be scaled-up based on the experiencegained from the Institute’s previous interventions.


Nutritionalanalysis shows that Moringa leaves are extremely nutritious (Table 3.3). Theycontain larger amounts of several important nutrients than do the common foodsoften associated with these nutrients. These include vitamin C, which fights ahost of illnesses including colds and flu; vitamin A, which acts as a shield againsteye disease, skin disease, heart ailments, diarrhoea, and many other diseases;calcium, which builds strong bones and teeth and helps prevent osteoporosis;potassium, which is essential for the functioning of the brain and nerves; andproteins, the basic building blocks of all our body cells. Moringa is anextremely fast growing tree. It can reach up to 4 m (15 feet) in a year,reaching an eventual height of between 6 and 15 m (20 and 50 feet). Moringa canbe grown easily from seeds or from cuttings.


Analysisof Moringa pods, fresh (raw) leaves and dried leaf powder have shown them tocontain proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and various micro-nutrients. Thesenutrients obtained per 100 g of edible portion of moringa are shown in Table3.3.


Table3.3: Nutritional content of Moringa pods, fresh and dried leaves

Nutritional elements (per 100 g of edible portion)



Leaf powder

Moisture (%)








Protein (g)




Fat (g)




Carbohydrate (g)




Fibre (g)




Minerals (g)




Calcium (mg)




Magnesium (mg)




Phosphorus (mg)




Potassium (mg)




Copper (mg)




Iron (mg)




Sulphur (mg)




Oxalic acid (mg)




Vitamin A, β carotene (mg)




Vitamin B, choline (mg)




Vitamin B1, thiamin (mg)




Vitamin B2, riboflavin (mg)




Vitamin B3, nicotinic acid (mg)




Vitamin C, ascorbic acid (mg)




Vitamin E, tocopherol acetate (mg)




Arginine (g/16 g N)




Histidine (g/16 g N)




Lysine (g/16 g N)




Tryptophan (g/16 g N)




Phenylanaline (g/16 g N)




Methionine (g/16 g N)




Threonine (g/16 g N)




Leucine (g/16 g N)




Isoleucine (g/16 g N)




Valine (g/16 g N)





Additional documentation

1.    Thefollowing pictures were taken from successful small-scale intervention areas ofMoringa.


Plate3.1: Moringa processing and marketing women groups established at Kewet Woreda(photo by Kaleb K.)