Mali: Fighting to maintain ecosystem balance and halt the advancing Sahara desert

"Through the project, four municipalities of Bema District have now come together to protect acacia, and promote and market gum arabic… this has meant many employment opportunities for our young people to earn an income and resist the temptation to venture abroad seeking jobs."

Oumar isone of the 370,500 people in Mali producing gum arabic, among which 80% (296,400) are women. Reforestation, a major objective of the EIF gum arabic project in Mali, is crucial, given that over 60% of Mali's total surface area of 1.22 million km2 is in desert or semi-desert zones, and 20% is in the Sahelian zone. The project, centered in six of the most vulnerable regions where Oumar lives, is part of regional efforts in the "Great Green Wall of Africa" initiative aimed at halting the advancing Sahara desert. The project covers 10,000 hectares of land being planted with acacia trees with a focus on reducing poverty and addressing environmental degradation and sustainable land management. It aims to prevent the loss of plant species in the Sahelian zone, fight against desert encroachment and climate change, while maintaining the balance of the eco system. Information and training on the protection of gum arabic has sensitized nomadic pastoralists who engage in excessive cutting of acacia for feeding of their livestock. Oumar looks around the growing acacia trees referring to them as 'The tree with the gold tear' and remarks,