ASAL- Arid and Semi Arid Lands of Kenya

The so called “ASAL – Arid and Semi-Arid Lands” counties of Kenya, covering around the 80% of the national territory are where AGAR operates.

The inhabitants of these counties are mainly pastoral communities covering vast areas including the Borana, Samburu, Turkana, Somali, Rendille, Gabra, Pokot only to mention a few ethnic groups, yet together they comprise of only 10% of the population Kenya (4 Million according to the ASAL policy – Ministry of Devolution and Planning, 2015).

These areas fall in the “Arid and Semi-Arid” criteria as they receive rainfall between 0-300 mm (dry) and 300 and 600 mm (semi-arid). Because of these characteristics the agriculture is limited or non-existent; furthermore, frequent droughts have been intensified by climate change.

Yet, Kenya’s Arid and Semi-arid lands are endowed with a rich diversity of plant resources especially types of Acacias, Boswelias and Commiphoras exuding gum and resins and other resources with commercial value. The region, which depends almost entirely on livestock production, is highly underdeveloped with poverty levels being among the highest in the country.

Several studies recognized the potential that exists in developing the off take of NTFPs (Non Timber Forest Products) such as gum and resins but also aloe and agave/sisal, two succulent plants, as the right step towards sustainable economic development of these arid and semi-arid lands of Northern Kenya.

Increasing desertification is also an issue, being of the symptomatic problems of climate change, plus the widespread practice of cutting trees for the production of coal, common to 70% of Kenya and accentuated in areas of interest due to the absence of electricity, and very difficult to regulate. In the above mentioned counties, and throughout the area of the “ASAL”, income depends almost exclusively on the beef and goats meat value chain, a feature linked to the tradition of the pastoralist communities in object.

It is within this context that AGAR operates, focusing its action in the most poverty stricken areas of Kenya and Uganda, as we work also in Karamoja, the least developed district in Uganda, aiming at diversifying the communities’ income thru a high potential alternative livelihood such as gum&resins and other NTFP products.


African Agency for Arid Resources Limited (AGAR LTD) is a Kenyan company dealing with natural resources in the ASAL (Arid and Semi-Arid Lands) areas of East Africa, specialized in the collection, grading and sale of 1st and 2nd grade Gum Arabic, Black Frankincense, Hagar/Opoponax and Myrrh together with the processing of resins into bulk essential oils. Agar Limited is also the parent company of “Essenza by Agar”, a line of pure essential oils from the African continent, aloe based cosmetic and beauty products and carrier oils from within Kenya.


To be the lead agency in the economically empowered, indigenous and innovative public-private partnership in the dry lands of Africa, specializing in the sustainable exploitation of natural resources through biodiversity, conservation practices, environmental sustainability and forestation.


Our vision is to support the empowerment of pastoralist communities in the East African ASAL through sustainable exploitation of natural forest resources, by providing them with market access and professional technical advice in selected NFTP value chains.

In pursuing our vision, we also offer professional services:

    • Consulting services: A leading consultancy agency in the region, providing quality expertise for need assessments, mappings, feasibility studies and sector’s review solely on NTFP value chains in arid lands, working closely with pastoralist communities and other stakeholders.
    • Training services: We also train on collection, sorting, grading and are actively working on development projects with international NGOs.


  • Integrity and Transparency
  • Products Innovation and Diversification
  • High Standards of Quality
  • Biodiversity and Conversation
  • Income generation in arid lands


and its Uses

  1. Decreasing cholesterol absorption, lowering of elevated plasma cholesterol and managing of obesity and overweight.
  2. Support the growth of indigenous, friendly intestinal bacteria, particularly lactic bacteria and yield large amount of short chain fatty acids with decreased gut pH.
  3. A useful additive to oral dehydration solution (ORS) for the potentiating of water and electrolyte absorption for managing diarrhea.
  4. At the same time, and being a hydrocolloid, Gum Arabic can act for better water balance in colon to combat constipation and easing of bowel movement.
  5. Act against the development of colorectal cancer by reducing the ability of insoluble dietary fibers to absorb hydrophobic carcinogens.
  6. Effectively stimulate the growth of beneficial bacterial groups of the gut such as bifid bacterium sp that supports mucosal epithelial cell proliferation.
  7. For dietary management, it is known to decrease protein intake for renal failure patients.
  8. Be used as biodegradable polymeric materials to deliver bioactive agents. This has been hampered by the synthetic materials.
  9. Initiated the slow release on insulin of normal pancreas of the rabbit and modulated slow glucose release in blood.
  10. A successful vehicle for drug delivery and the natural polysaccharides of Gum Arabic do hold advantages over the synthetic polymers, generally because they are nontoxic, less expensive, and freely available.


  1. Emulsification
  2. Encapsulation
  3. Stabilization
  4. Thickening
  5. Gelling agent
  6. Lowering viscosity
  7. High water holding capacity
  8. Good suspending agent
  9. Adhesion in coating
  10. Hard film formation
  11. Low calorific value
  12. High in soluble dietary fibers
  13. Prevention of sugar crystallization
  14. Binding other substances
  15. Forming open texture and structure


Gum Arabic is multifunctional and is used in whole range of food & non-food products, it’s major uses include. Applications functions:


  • Milk based solutions stabilization & fiber
  • Prescription and non-prescription drugs component officer OTC
  • Cough drops fiber source non congener
  • Tablets mineral supplements disintegration prevention
  • Diabetic sweet source of fiber non congener
  • Syrups suspension
  • Powered vitamins encapsulation and powder oil entrapment
  • Shampoo suspension & emulsion stabilization
  • Labeling Adhesive


  • Powered flavours oil entrapment encapsulation
  • Powered beverages flavor encapsulation
  • Emulsion for carbonated on carbonated drinks -oil and water emulsion stabilization


  • Glues calorie contra agents
  • Hair fixer binder
  • Bakery coating agent
  • Foodstuff moisture retention crispness
  • Lithographic plates films forming flexible films
  • Paint, ink & poster solution emulsifying agent
  • Salted snacks adhesion of flavoring

Confectory Application Functions

  • Caramels Binding agents improves chew ability
  • Gum, sweets source of fiber, binding prevent sugar crystallization
  • Bubble gum engrossing (sugar)
  • Coated sweet chocolates centers’ Film forming
  • Chocolate centre’s glazing
  • Chewing gum chechlets protecting (oil & water)
  • Coating agents for fatty
  • Waxy surface moisture fats and oxygen barrier
  • Gum drops and pastilles prevent sugar crystallization
  • Chewing gum water and flavor retention softening
  • Fruits/gullies/pastes/slices gelling independent of sugar PH



Frankincense is among the most widely used of all essential oils. Its benefits are numerous and it has been used extensively in traditional cultures for many thousands of years. Frankincense oil is revered for its powerfully uplifting and clarifying effects on the body and mind. When diffused in your home, it provides protection for you and your family encourages healthy moods. It will turn the fragrance of your home into that of a temple!

A few drops of this high-quality frankincense oil can be applied to the palms, rubbed together and directly inhaled. This produces an instantaneous clarifying effect and a strong activation of the life-force (prana). Frankincense essential oil can also be mixed with a carrier oil such as coconut or sesame and massaged into the skin to help the body stay limber and relaxed. It is particularly helpful for those who practice yoga. A few drops of the oil can be sprinkled on a hot, wet towel and applied to the chest to open the lungs and enhance deep breathing.

Among frankincense’s many attributes is its use as a spiritual tool for ritual, prayer and meditation. Used in worship for thousands of years, it is valued both for its many healing powers and for its intoxicating fragrance. Frankincense can properly be said to belong to the family of sacred scents.


Myrrh Oil History

Myrrh essential oil has been used for thousands of years in traditional healing therapies and in religious ceremonies. Common myrrh oil uses historically, include:

    • Fragrance
    • Embalming
    • Flavoring for food
    • Treating hay fever
    • As an antiseptic to clean and treat wounds
    • As a paste to help stop bleeding

The Chinese frequently used myrrh as a medicine, and it remains a part of traditional Chinese medicine to this day. The main myrrh oil use by the Egyptians was for embalming and the Jews used it to make the holy anointing oil that was used in worship services.

The most common historical myrrh oil use was to burn the resin over hot coals. This would release a mysterious, spiritual quality into any room before a religious ceremony. It has also been used in aromatherapy for its meditative quality or for prayer, usually in combination with frankincense.

The smell of myrrh has been traditionally seen as a symbol of suffering, burned at funerals or other solemn events. But, at times myrrh is blended with citrus oils to help produce a more uplifting aroma. These lighter blends have been used to help promote inspiration and emotional insight.

Myrrh Oil Benefits

Myrrh oil has many potential benefits, although further research is needed to determine the exact mechanisms of how it works and dosages for therapeutic benefits. Here are some of the main benefits of myrrh oil use:

  1.  Potent Antioxidant
    A 2010 animal-based study in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology found that myrrh could protect against liver damage in rabbits due to its high antioxidant capacity. There may be some potential for uses in humans also.
  2. Anticancer Benefits
    A lab-based study found that myrrh also has potential anticancer benefits. The researchers found that myrrh was able to reduce the proliferation or replication of human cancer cells. They found that myrrh inhibited growth in eight different types of cancer cells, specifically gynecological cancers. Although further research is needed to determine exactly how to use myrrh for cancer treatment, this initial research is promising.
  3. Antibacterial and Antifungal Benefits
    Historically, myrrh was used to treat wounds and prevent infections. It can still be used in this manner on minor skin irritations such as athlete’s foot, ring worm, and acne. Apply a few drops to a clean towel first before applying it directly to the skin.
  4. Anti-Parasitic
    A medication has been developed using myrrh as a treatment for fascioliasis, a parasitic worm infection that has been infecting humans worldwide. This parasite is generally transmitted by ingesting aquatic algae and other plants. A medication made with myrrh was able to decrease symptoms of the infection, as well as a drop in parasite egg count found in the feces.
  5. Skin Health
    Myrrh can help maintain healthy skin. It can help soothe chapped or cracked skin. It is commonly added to skin care products to help with moisturizing and also for fragrance. Ancient Egyptians used it to prevent aging and maintain healthy skin.
  6. Relaxation
    Myrrh is commonly used in aromatherapy for massages. It can also be added to a warm bath or applied directly to the skin.


(Sometimes called “sweet myrrh” and “hagar” in Somali language)

For many centuries, Sweet Myrrh – Opoponax has been used in perfumery and for treating wounds and clearing respiratory congestion. Sweet Myrrh essential oil exerts a drying action on mucous membranes, allowing relief from bronchitis, colds, sore throats, and coughs.

Similar to Frankincense and Myrrh, Opoponax is used for its antiseptic and anti-parasitic properties. The oil also possesses powerful relief for stomach ailments, arthritis, inflammation, and muscle pain.

Opoponax Essential Oil Benefits

Opoponax essential oil benefits include: It is an astringent thus it is able to decongest the mucus in the respiratory tract, it is carminative and can be used to treat stomach ailments. It has anti-inflammatory properties and acts as a stimulant to get the circulation going. It has antiseptic qualities suitable for treating wounds and bruises.

Instruction for Use

The Opoponax Oil can be applied topically on the body spots that need soothing or treatment from infection. It can also be blended for massage purposes. It can be directly inhaled via steam to decongest the respiratory tract. Diffusion can also enable its use as a mild aphrodisiac.

History and Additional Information

King Solomon used it as one of the major components of incense for temple rituals, while the Chinese used it for homeopathic treatments. Traditionally the Somali used it to treat stomach ailments and wounds. In other parts of the world, the resins were used treat arthritis.


AGAR Ltd is developing a strategic plan for the short, medium and long term. This plan will help us steering our action towards the future and build bigger and stronger partnerships with our communities and our partners in East Africa and beyond. The plan is currently being validated by our Board of Advisors and will be share on the website soon.


AGAR Ltd partners up with a range of private and public actors. Currently, we collaborate closely with the County Government of Isiolo, the County Government of Turkana, the County Government of Marsabit and the County Government of Wajir in Kenya. We also work in North East Uganda, where we started our work in partnership with the District of Moroto.

Further to the local government, we also collaborate often with institutions such as Kenya Forestry Association (KFS), Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), the Gum And Resins Association (GARA) where we are executive committee member, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

Since AGAR is active in development work and studies, we partnered up over the years with NGOs and Community Based Organizations (CBOs) among which CEFA, COOPI, CESVI, World Vision, VSF-G in Kenya, C&D – Africa Mission in Uganda, and from 2019 FAO and WFP among UN agencies. We also partnered up with foundations, namely the E4IMPACT Foundation – we are part of their accelerator and the Lundin Foundation being in their portfolio.

Active from 2018 in the trade of bulk essential oils of resins from arid lands, in 2019 AGAR launched a line of 10 Made in Africa essential oils called “Essenza by Agar”, a line centered around quality and traceability sourcing local products. The line, which now as aloe-based beauty products and soon carrier oils and new essential oils, is distributed in Kenya and exported abroad.


African Agency for Arid Resources Limited

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Below some images of AGAR’s work in Kenya and Uganda during the collection, the assessments carried out for our development partners and during the value addition (grading) at one of our storages, plus some of the many conferences, workshops, fairs, seminars and other field and commercial activities.