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EO Clinic: Assessment of the Potential of Gum and Resin-Bearing Tree Species in Ethiopia



EO Clinic support requested by: GIZ Ethiopia
Requesting activity: Assessment of the potential of Gum/Resin bearing tree species in the Horn of Africa
Requesting activity type: Technical Assistance (TA)

EO Clinic relevant Thematic Groups: TG1 (Agriculture), TG6 (Forestry)

Work Order number: EOC0028
Work Order status: KO Pending
Work Order start:
Work Order end:


The GIZ country programs include different activities surrounding natural products. The natural products of interest include honey and beeswax, but more particularly the promotion of supply chains for gums and resins. These are saps and exudates of indigenous tree species, such as frankincense, myrrh or Gum Arabic. The products are traded on domestic and international markets. Internationally they find applications in the food, cosmetic, pharmaceutical industry and in aromatherapy. The trade value of these products goes into millions of US$. Probably most known are frankincense (used as a scent in Catholic churches and in aromatherapy) and Gum Arabic (used as an anti-coagulant in soft drinks like Coca-Cola). Sudan is the largest supplier of Gum Arabic in the world, covering about 85% of the world market.

The GIZ programs which involve natural products as an activity are three: Biodiversity (myrrh, honey), Green Innovation Center (mainly honey and waxes), and Cross-border Cooperation West-Ethiopia/East Sudan (gums/resins). All projects within these programmes have in common that they want to support measures to help smallholders become involved into such supply chains. At present the GIZ SDR (strengthening drought resilience) Program has no measures in place but the potential is there and there is interest in working with potential EO products.

Problems to be Addressed and Geospatial Information Gaps

A recent GIZ-commissioned study revealed that Ethiopia has a large potential to provide gums/resins and honey/wax products, which is entirely underutilised. Findings from this study are: 1) Defining the size of the natural resource is critical, at present there is no estimation on how large the resource is; 2) There is no knowledge on which environmental parameters are connected with the natural re-source (soils, water situation, altitude, etc.); 3) There is no information on the health status of the tree population; 4) Scientists and interviewees especially mentioned the regeneration as one of the major critical issues; and 5) There are estimates over the distribution of the different species but they seem to be outdated and inaccurate.

It is also worthwhile mentioning that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) intends to protect gum and resin-bearing species. This would mean that the trade becomes restricted at the minimum, with unforeseen consequences for the collectors (most of them women actually). This should be seen in the context of the large amounts of money that are turned over with such products along the supply chain – at collectors’ level, at the level of processing and local trade, and as a forex income earner for exporting countries. A valuable trade can act as an incentive to better protect and sustainably use these resources.

According to the above, the priority geospatial needs identified are: 1) size of the natural resource; 2) tree/population health status; 3) tree/species distribution; 4) tree regeneration; 5) density of stands; and 6) maturity of trees.

Information Services to be Delivered

  • Service 1: Classification of Gum and Resin-Bearing Tree Species
  • Service 2: Assessment of Vegetation Health
  • Service 3: Mapping Distinct Tree Species


Prime contractor
  • Mallon Technology (IE)