Coffee growers in Uganda and non-timber forest producers in Sudan work tirelessly during their harvesting seasons. Non-timber forest producers harvest both gum arabic, an edible stabilizer that can be found in food and cosmetics, as well as forest honey and hibiscus among other products. The coffee growers and non-timber forest producers harvest their crops and then sell them to earn a profit. But this work and subsequent income fluctuate with the seasons.
On paper, it may seem that these small-scale farmers have money because on average their overall income exceeds their outgoing expenses. But what is on paper and what actually happens are two different stories. Many of these farmers gather and sell their products during the harvesting season and make their income then. Then there are other times of the year when they can’t harvest and sell their products. During that time, they have little to no income. Their money, like their products, is seasonal.
To deal with the income-poor months, many of these farmers try to obtain loans to tie them over until the next income-generating period. Unfortunately, banks often refuse to provide loans to these farmers as they are seen as debtors that are too risky. Instead, farmers are forced to borrow from loan sharks, at higher interest rates. This has led to situations where farmers end up in debt traps where they farm land that is no longer theirs to pay off outstanding debts; or are forced to migrate to other areas where they have to compete with other farmers over land, access to water, and other scarce resources, leading to tensions and instability.