|Traditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)|
Borana: burra diima, sadeema, sapans diima, iddado, baabido (gum) Daasanach: dang'ite Digo: kikwata English: gum arabic tree, Sudan gum arabic Gabra: iddaad'o Ilchamus: lderkesi Kamba: king'ole (Machakos), kikole, king'olola (north Kitui) Luo: kiluor, otiep Maa: olderkesi, enderkesi, interkes (plural), olbida Mbeere: mung'othi Orma: bura-diima Pokot: chemanga, chemankayan Rendille: hadhaadh, mirgi-abah (gum) Samburu: lderkesi, manok (gum) Somali: edad, edad-geri, adad, edaad Swahili: kikwata, mgunga Teso: ekunoit, ekodokodoi Turkana: ekunoit
Description: Shrub or small tree up to 9 m tall, more often 2-4 m high. Crown flat in mature trees. BARK: Scaly, yellowish brown or grey-brown. Branches armed. THORNS: Spines brown-black, usually arranged in threes at the leaf nodes, the middle one recurved, the others directed forwards. FLOWERS: Buds red, opening to long white or cream spikes, borne in twos or threes or singly. FRUIT: A flat brown, papery, prominently veined dehiscent pod to 10 cm long by 2 cm broad, often slightly constricted between some or all seeds. Seeds usually 3-5, greenish brown, flattened with a circular outline.
Ecology: From West Africa east to Egypt, south to South Africa and Namibia. Also found in Asia. Grows in Kenya, e.g. on Homa Hill, in the Rift Valley, Lokitaung and Mutha hill in dry Acacia-Commiphora bushland and wooded grassland, often forming a pure stand on raised rocky ground in very dry areas, 100-1,700 m. Prefers well-aerated soils, especially rocky, loam or sandy soils. Rainfall: 200-800 mm. Zones III-VII.
Uses: FOOD: A clear edible gum is produced by this tree (+++). This is the best acacia gum in Kenya, much treasured by pastoralists. To induce gum formation, a section of the bark is wounded or stripped off. In the wild state gum production is induced by natural factors. Plants in arid areas or in the dry season tend to produce better gum. This species produces the well-known gum arabic used in pharmaceutical, food and confectionery industries and in the manufacture of glue.
MEDICINAL: Juice obtained from fruits is used as eye medicine (Ilchamus).
OTHER: Fuelwood (++), charcoal, house poles (+), fencing. Bark a source of fibre. Leaves are goat (+++) and camel (++) fodder.
COMMERCIAL: Commercial gum is collected from the wild (Wajir, Mandera, Isiolo, Marakwet, Garissa, Samburu) mainly by children and women. It is usually picked for export to the Far East and Europe. The gum trade in Kenya is less lucrative than in Sudan and Somalia. The main reason is the poor quality of the gum, mainly due to the fact that various grades and types are mixed.
In Kenya, the gum exudes from the tree mainly as a result of natural causes or stress. In the Sudan, the business is old and well established. Here the plant is purposely injured during tapping to induce gum formation. The gum is ready for harvesting about a month after tapping. Collecting can be done over two or more months. Tapping may begin when the tree is four years old and a tree may produce gum up to the age of 15-20 years. Tapping tends to destroy the bark thus lowering production. In the Sudan, tapping is done with a small axe, mainly by removing a long strip of the outer bark from the branches, and is normally done in the dry season when the plant is in stress. The tappers are experienced and hence the quality is good. Kenyan gum, on the other hand, is traditionally collected by pastoralists. Until recently, the business only attracted a few Somali traders, but now the business is attracting full-time collectors and thus the quality of gum is improving.
The potential for development exists. High densities and sometimes pure stands of this species have been found in parts of Turkana and Baringo Districts, especially in northern Baringo, in Kakuma and along Kapedo-Lokichar road. Training of collectors, improved collecting methods and more organized marketing would be the way forward in developing this resource as the market for gum arabic is far from saturated. Currently the Sudan is the largest producer. Others include Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, Chad, Ethiopia and Somalia.
Season: Gum production is highest in August-September and February-March. Flowers in July (Kitui); fruits in August-September (Turkana, Baringo, Ngong).
Management: Best propagated by seed. Soaking in water for a day or nicking may improve germination.
Status: Locally common.
Remarks: This species is extremely variable. At least three varieties are found in Kenya:
· var. Senegal. Distribution: Moyale, Homa Hill, 100-1,700 m.
· var. kerensis Schweinf. Distribution: Lokitaung, Baringo, Mutha, 460-1,130 m. Gum of less superior quality than that of var. senegal.
· var. leiorachis Brenan. (Orma: bura-diima, Somali: adad-gher). This species often hybridizes with Acacia mellifera in Kajiado.