Mangoes are a popular ingredient in functional snacks, being a source of magnesium and potassium, both of which are connected to lower blood pressure. Furthermore, they contain a compound known as mangiferin, which early studies suggest may be able to reduce inflammation of the heart. The superfood also contains vitamins A, B6 and C to support the body’s immune system and are purported to help stabilise the digestive system. What’s not to love?
The 1,000km-long Tana River in the former Coast Province (now Tana River County) is a vein that keeps the county’s economy productive and a source of income for over 80% of its populace. Agriculture – livestock, maize, rice, bananas and mangoes (an important cash crop) – is mainly small scale with non-mechanised techniques.
The area is poor and has battled food insecurity for decades. A 2004 ALMRP survey revealed that 79% of the county is food insecure with an incidence of poverty at 62% – data that is still true today.
The County’s water insecurity presents a prime example of the nexus between conflict and food security, with a constant war between farmers and locals over access to water. Heavy rainfall in upstream areas, too, regularly result in floods, and irrigation projects have typically ended in failure.
Climate change has exacerbated the situation, leading to pasture deterioration, declines in livestock and wiping out incomes and food security.
Wo(man) on the go and staying alive
Concern has identified an opportunity to tackle these challenges in the Tana River, which has 200,000 mango trees growing along its banks. Importantly, mango production is more resilient to the impact of climate change and flooding of the river.
The Agricultural Livelihoods Improving Value Chains and the Environment (ALIVE) project builds on a 12-year collab between Concern and Kerry – which has positively impacted on the lives of thousands of people in Niger, Zambia and Kenya.
With financial support from Kerry, and using river water for irrigation, ALIVE will create a regional value chain for mango production to benefit female growers, creating a new income stream for their families.
“Climate change is having a devastating impact on the region, with the loss of pasturelands and the reduction in water supplies,” said Carol Morgan, Concern’s director of International Programmes.
“Many households in Tana River depend on this traditional way of livestock rearing, but we are seeing that the full potential of the mango crop is untapped.”
At the sharp end of climate change
The global ingredients and nutrition specialist is collaborating with Concern Worldwide to train farmers in climate-smart agricultural methods, as well as providing access to climate resilient seeds and opening new areas for agricultural production and irrigation. This, ultimately, will have a knock-on effect of improving the lives of more than 46,000 Kenyans.
“This is an opportunity to further positively impact the lives of farming communities at the sharp end of climate change – incorporating factors such as skills training, access to capital, markets, employment and improving health and nutrition levels,” said Morgan.
Added Catherine Keogh, chief corporate affairs and brand officer of Kerry added, “By removing barriers to progress, we aim to improve the lives of local farmers and their families.
“The focus on climate-smart solutions and health and nutrition support will create long term value and support some of those most affected by hunger and malnutrition.
“World Food Day (16 October) [was again a reminder] of our responsibility to deliver sustainable nutrition across the globe and we are extremely proud to partner with Concern once again to devise innovative solutions to help make Zero Hunger a reality.”
Participants will receive training on post-harvest handling, support for mango processing at community level and the introduction of post-harvest processing machines.
They will also be empowered to interact with markets, with an aim to improve household incomes by 20% annually, forming farmer-producer cooperatives and establishing relationships with regional processors and traders. Many farmers are not organised in any form of cooperative and they rely on local traders and handling agents – as a result they get low farm gate prices for their produce.
ALIVE is also targeting malnutrition among children under-five and mothers in the community, which will see the scaling up of health and malnutrition screening, and improving health and nutrition knowledge and care practices.
Concern Worldwide is Ireland’s largest overseas development organisation, working in 25 of the world’s poorest countries and last year, helping over 39 million people.
Concern’s vision, mission and work are all defined by one goal – to end extreme poverty, whatever it takes. From rapid emergency response to innovative development programming, its teams go to the hardest to reach places to make sure that no-one is left behind.