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Mango shortage leaves Senegalese families struggling

Families in Senegal have less to eat and less cash to buy food with after a winter heatwave ruined this year’s mango harvest.

Mangoes are vital for many farmers in the west African county’s struggling Casamance region.

Many farmers in that area, south of The Gambia, depend on their mango crops through sales within the west African country, exports outside it and for food to keep their families going between seasons.

Most years, the region normally produces about 30,000 tons of mangoes a year. But this year, there has been a drop of between 70 and 80 per cent drop in production, said agriculture expert Mamadou Conté.

"The reason is the intense heat we had during the period from November to March − the blossoming period for mango trees. At times, it hit 40 degrees Celsius here in Casamance, while mango trees need cooler weather to bloom," he told United Nations news service, IRIN.

Between last November and February this year, temperatures hovered in the high 30s, compared with the high 20s, the same time last year.

"In some 40 years, Casamance has not seen anything like this," Mr Conté said. "Surely it is due to climate change; I just hope it will not continue."

"We sold almost nothing this year," Clémentine Mangou', told IRIN. She said her family harvested barely three tons of mangoes from their orchard, compared with at least 10 tones most years. "Selling mangoes is what always got us through this period − providing us with some money to buy food and meet our daily needs, and even buy clothes for the children… Putting the children in school this year is going to be very difficult." Ms Mangou now takes in washing to make ends meet.

This year’s loss of mangoes is not only cutting families incomes, it is also harming families’ health because they are an essential part of most Senegalese people’s diets at this time of year because they grow during the rainy season, from the end of July into September, a poor time for harvesting crops. Mangoes prevent thousands of families from going hungry during this season.

Sweet, fleshy Keitt, Kent and Palmer mangoes are the main source of income for rural mango farmers in Senegal. Most Senegalese mangoes go to Belgium, Holland or Luxembourg (55 per cent) followed by 29 per cent to England and 11 per cent.

Hayley attribution