How one Mango Farmer is Making his Dreams Come True
In Arba Minch, one of the districts that makes up the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR) of Ethiopia, mango fruit is a very popular cash crops for farmers. However, mango production in the area has been beset by numerous problems due to a lack of access to improved seedlings and limited training on crop, pest, and waste management. Recently an invasion of Whitescale bacteria affecting the East Africa region has been particularly damaging to existing mango trees. Without any means of purchasing improved mango seedlings that would yield an abundant and quality crop, many farmers are left to struggling with worn out established trees that low yields and are both low in nutrients and unattractive to buyers.
Abraham Admasu earns his living through mango fruit production. For years, he had been farming the old trees, and, like many of his peers, he realised the transformative potential of using improved mango seedlings but didn’t have access to them. Pests, diseases, and poor harvesting techniques also reduced the impact of Abraham’s labour, making it difficult to provide for his wife and two children.
“In the past, a large amount of my mango yield was spoiled by disease and had to be discarded,” Abraham said. If we picked three quintals from a tree, one quintal had to be thrown away.”
He joined Vita’s climate-smart agriculture programme to learn how he could overcome this issue and cultivate a better-quality crop. The CSA programme operated Arba Minch with the aim of helping mango producers increase the quality of their yields. Alongside other local farmers, Abraham received training to better manage pests and disease as well as mango grafting (top working), better harvesting techniques and improved storage. Critically the programme gave Abraham and his peers access to quality and resilient mango tree seedlings. These are grown locally through a Vita – supported co-operative enterprise and are used to graft onto the original trees.
As mentioned, one of the biggest challenges mango producers like Abraham faced is Whitescale bacteria that gets into the roots and mango fly infestations. The Whitescale is combatted by the grafting. The mango flies spoil the fruit. To combat this, Vita’s programme also provided pheromone- based mango flytraps and helpful training around protectives measures for mango producers.
“I was trained to use the chainsaws and prepare my trees for grafting. I was also trained on how to help the grafts establish and when to cut away the older wood away. We use the apple mango variety now – it is a better shape and the commercial juicing companies prefer it. It does not get diseases like to old trees.”
The new grafts are low growing, making it much easier for Abraham to harvest his mangos. The old trees were very high – farmers had to hit the fruit with sticks to make them fall to the ground. Not only did this technique This not only ruined a lot of fruit but traditionally the children of farmers like Abraham would climb the trees with sticks during harvest time to scare away foraging monkeys. This caused them to miss school and occasionally they were injured through falls. The new trees typically grow to just three metres in height and so the mangoes are easily harvested by hand by the farmer himself.
Before, mangoes were piled up at the edge of the field to be collected, and this caused even more spoilage of the fruit. Vita has worked with the farmers to build diffused light storage facilities which ensures that the mangoes are spread out on shelves in a dark but ventilated space. Bruised fruit is easily spotted before it spoils the fruit around it.
Together, these improved seeds, rigorous training, and pest management, have had a profound impact on the quality and volume of Abraham’s fruit yields. “The improved mango variety yields four or even five quintals per tree,” he told us. This is a significant increase from his yield when using local seed, not to mention the savings of spoiled fruit that had to be thrown away. Farmers like Abraham have seen their income improve by over 120%.
However, even when Abraham did manage to produce a healthy mango crop, one problem still remained: how to sell it? He, like many small farmers, often had difficulty selling his crop as he lacked links to the local market suppliers. This project was designed to overcome this, linking each farmer with area’s Vegetable and Fruit Marketing Co-operatives Union – a vital introduction that provided Abraham with an essential platform to sell his new and improved high-quality mango crop.
This programme has completely transformed not only his life but the future of his family. He has been able to move his family into a new home, Abraham’s wife has had the financial security to open her own shop and both of his children are in school year-round.
However, even when Abraham did manage to produce a healthy mango crop through Vita’s CSA programme, one problem still remained: how to sell it? He, like many small farmers, often had difficulty selling his crop as he lacked links to the local market suppliers. The CSA project was designed to overcome this, linking each farmer with the Gamo Gofa Farmer’s Vegetable and Fruit Marketing Co-operatives Union PLC – a vital introduction that provided Abraham with an essential platform to sell his new and improved high-quality mango crop.
This, together with his improved mango yields has significantly increased Abraham’s income, and thus completely transformed not only his life but the life and hopes of his family. He has been able to move his family into a new home, Abraham’s wife has had the financial security to open her own shop and both of his children are in good schools.