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September 19, 2010

Higher than normal temperatures blamed for sharp drop in Senegal mango production

Families in Senegal’s Casamance region have less to spend and less to eat this lean season because of a drastic drop in mango production, residents and agriculture experts say.

Mangoes are a major source of family revenue in the region and an important food in the period between harvests. Farmers depend on mango exports as well as local sales.

“This year we have seen a 70-80 percent decrease in mango production in Casamance,” agriculture and rural development expert Mamadou Conté said in the main city of Ziguinchor. The region normally produces about 30,000 tons a year, he said.

“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.”

From November 2009 to February 2010 temperatures hovered in the high 30s - “a rise from preceding years,” according to Mamadou Sambou, head of meteorology in Ziguinchor. He said the same period a year ago had high 20s.

“In some 40 years Casamance has not seen anything like this,” agricultural technician Conté said. “Surely it is due to climate change; I just hope it will not continue.” Other fruit trees have also been affected.

Fruit-destroying insects and increased soil salinity have also hit production, according to William Diatta, WFP senior programme officer and acting head of the Ziguinchor sub-office.

“A lot more households find themselves vulnerable this year,” Diatta said. WFP is likely to increase the number of people it assists through food-for-work projects - including restoring mangroves and building salt-blocking dams.

Clémentine Mangou’s family is just one of those affected. “We sold almost nothing this year,” said Mangou, who lives in the Tilène neighbourhood of Ziguinchor. Her family has an orchard in the village of Kitor, 7km away. She said her family harvested barely three tons, while normally they produce at least 10.

“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.”

Mangou said she goes door-to-door to wash clothes to make some money.

The loss of mangoes directly hits not only people’s wallets but also their health.

“Aside from the commercial aspect, mangoes play a huge role in food security in Casamance,” said Ismaïla Diédhiou of the Senegalese Association for Community Development.

Mangou said: “The children will not be able to eat mangoes as they usually do; even for the adults mangoes are an essential part of our diet during this period.”


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