The resilience 
of the mango

One of the characteristics of the mango tree - which can reach a height of up to 40 metres, with glossy, dark green, elongated leaves - is its ability to withstand high temperatures and drought.

This is why it is the tree that best represents the concept of resilience. And that's not all: it is a fundamental tree for the economy of the countries that grow it, and also for the wellbeing of the environment, as its foliage is able to absorb a large amount of carbon dioxide and it is an ideal habitat for many different species of animal. Basically, planting mango trees can help us to mitigate climate change, reduce poverty and promote environmental sustainability.
There is a wonderful story that has mango trees, the women who grow them and an NGO committed to defeating hunger and poverty as its protagonists. This story is set in Kenya, where women make up over 70% of the workforce in agriculture, and contribute to 80% of all work in domestic food production.

In the county of West Pokot, there is a group of 14 women who call themselves the "mango women". Together, these women grow mango plants that they sell to farmers in the county, supporting the production chain and guaranteeing an income for their families. Rose, Monica and Julia are part of this group, and all three of them have lost their animals due to the drought, but thanks to the mango they have been able to make an income and continue to send their children to school.

Rose is 50 years old, and has cultivated mango plants since 2015. She lives in the village of Lomut, and before joining the group, she had a few goats, sheep and cows. Unfortunately, a few months ago all her cows died because of the drought. Today, however, Rose has faith that she will soon manage to buy more, thanks to the sales of mango plants.

Monica also had several cows, and the loss of her animals was a moment of real difficulty for her. Without her group of mango women, she wouldn't have known how to continue sending her children to school.
For Julia, this is her first job, and it has been important for her to learn something new that is useful to the community. Today, she knows how to take care of mango plants, from preparing the seeds, throughout their growth, to treating them and finally selling them. For her, working alongside 13 other women is important, because things work better then they are done together.
The last few years have been particularly hard because of the drought, and the finances of many families have been put under severe strain due to the death of their animals, caused by the extreme heat and a lack of water. The mango has therefore become a strategic fruit for the subsistence of the county.

This is where CEFA (European Committee for Training and Agriculture) - "the Seed of Solidarity" - has got involved. For 50 years, they have been helping the poorest communities in the world to achieve food self-sufficiency and respect for fundamental rights, creating sustainable development models through initiatives that guarantee the growth of the territory, better wellbeing for the community and resilience against climate change.

Yes, resilience.

At the foundation of every CEFA project, in the many parts of the world where they operate, is the participation of local populations, making them protagonists of their own development in a spirit of collaboration that is at the heart of the solidarity the organisation wants to pursue: sisterhood and brotherhood, and sharing responsibility.

But let's get back to the mango. CEFA has been actively involved in supporting the mango women and their families through the introduction of a mango variety of superior quality compared to the local species, which is even more resilient and easier to grow, and more productive. This is why CEFA began distribution of over 10 thousand mango plants in April. Another great advantage of these plants is their capacity to adapt to the arid terrain in the region, and they also stay at a smaller size compared to a traditional mango tree. This allows all the women who grow the plants to pick the fruits with ease, without reducing production capacity.

In recent years, the group of "mango women" has become a point of reference for all the growers in the area. The 14 women sell the plants at around 1 year old, ready to be transplanted from their pots to the field. Soon, the village of Lomut and all the farmers in the area will begin to see the first fruit from the improved variety introduced by CEFA, which is able to produce fruit after only 3 years, compared to the 8 needed by other varieties.

Thanks to this project, there is a clear improvement in the productivity of the most vulnerable farming families in the community, guaranteeing them healthy food and financial support. 

Philomena is a farmer who has followed the training courses organised by CEFA on the theory and practice of mango cultivation with passion and interest. After receiving her plants, this is how she described her experience: "I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to CEFA. I can't wait to pick the sweet fruits of these plants. Now I am convinced that I can get back on my feet, partly thanks to this help. I have grown local mango varieties all my life, but they need at least five years to mature. This new variety takes half that amount of time. Soon, I will have food to feed my family and products to sell to support the education of my children."

The local government of West Pokot has also recently announced that it will finance the construction of a mango processing plant. This means that Philomena's fruit will also be used for the production of juices and drinks that will be sold all around the country.

"It is thanks to CEFA that I have had the courage to keep going. Now I am motivated, and I think I will continue to reinvest in my plants, buying and planting more every year."

This is called resilience, which translates into Swahili as ustahimilivu. While solidarity is mshikamano.

Mango after mango, seed after seed, CEFA has set itself a precise goal: add a billion places to the table around the world. Every day, they work hard to create the conditions to guarantee access to food, water, work and rights for 300,000 people in the next three years in the countries (ten in addition to Italy) where they are present, and they operate with an approach based on integrated rural development that takes the socio-environmental crisis into account as a whole.


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N° 13


What material are the "links" that connect one human to another made of?
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