Gum arabic is a tree resin obtained from Acacia senegal, an endemic tree species to the African Sahel Zone. Recently, plantation cultivation of Acacia senegal has been introduced in Northern Nigeria and the 'modern' production of gum arabic is investigated by government institutions to promote future gum arabic production, alongside a thitherto predominant smallholder collection of gum arabic from so-called natural stands of Acacia senegal. The two ways of collecting or producing gum arabic - smallholder collection in natural stands and plantation cultivation of Acacia senegal - are compared referring to land and labour productivity. In contrast to the collection of gum arabic in natural stands, the production of gum arabic in plantation cultivation requires the implementation of several working steps that are not carried out in natural stands. Hence, the question is raised how these two ways of gum arabic production differ from each other and why the collection from natural stands is rather extensive in comparison to plantation cultivation. Therefore, the context of local livelihoods and the interaction of several actors in the drylands of North-Eastern Nigeria is taken into consideration to explain the collection of gum arabic in natural stands. These interactions are limited in plantation cultivation where gum arabic production efficiency and profitability is focussed.