- What do you know about mango trees?
- In which part of the world so they originate?
- When and how did they come to East Africa?
- How tall can they grow?
- How long do you think they can live?
- What are their uses?
Little Known Facts about the Mango
The mango tree plays an important part in social and economic life in Uganda.
It provides welcome shade from the heat of day. It is a cool place for people to relax, chat and discuss important matters.
Mangoes originated in South Asia where they grow wild. They have been cultivated and harvested as a food in India since 2000 BCE. They have been in East Africa since the 10th Century. The seeds were brought by dhows on monsoon winds from India.
The tree is evergreen and requires tropical temperatures and a supply of water from regular rainfall, permanent rivers or underground water. The mango tree is in the cashew family, Anacardiaceae, and is known in many places as “omuyembe”.
Mango trees grow up to 35-40 metres tall, with a radius of 10m. Leaves are between 6 x 2.5cm and 35 x 14cm in size, depending on variety and age. Over 500 varieties are grown in different parts of the world. Young leaves are orange-pink and become dark glossy red and dark green as they mature. The fruit takes 4-5 months from flowering to ripen. Fruits can be yellow, orange red or green depending on variety. They vary in size from 5-25cm, and from 140grams to 2 kg in weight.
Mango trees live much longer than people. The oldest mango tree in the world is over 300 years old.
In Uganda’s equatorial zone it is possible to get two harvests of mango fruits each year – usually around June and December, after the long and short rains. In wetter areas in tropical zones, one harvest is possible between November and January, following the rains. Although the harvest season is fairly short, mangoes are a welcome addition to the diet and, for some farmers, they provide a good source of income. During the harvest period, Uganda exports surplus mangoes to Sudan and Congo. For the rest of the year, additional mangoes have to be imported to meet local demand via the port of Mombasa in Kenya.
- When do mangoes ripen in your area? Do you get 1 or 2 crops?
Mangoes are eaten as fruit, made into drinks and in India mixed with sugar, vinegar and spices to make chutneys and pickles to each with curries. Mango leaves are dried and powdered to make a mango tea, which is thought to be good for managing diabetes.
Mangoes are very nutritious. They are rich in energy and contain over 20 different vitamins and minerals. They are a rich source of vitamin C and are rich in folate. Folate is one of the B-vitamins which is used to make red and white blood cells in the bone marrow, convert carbohydrates into energy, and produce DNA and RNA. In high growth phases of life, such as pregnancy, infancy and adolescence, it is very important to have sufficient folate.
- Find out who consumes the largest number of mangoes where you live.
Are most eaten by children, young people and pregnant ladies, i.e those who most need a folate supplement?
The heartwood of the mango tree is a hardwood that is used for making doors, furniture, musical instruments, flooring and wooden vessels.
In Mexico they grow Mangoes on a commercial scale and export to the USA. Research has revealed that the average mango tree can sequester 2 to 2.5 times the carbon than is used in growing and harvesting and transporting to the US retailer. The average mango tree can absorb 7 x more carbon that releases through respiration.
Meet Annet, the Mango Farmer
On December 22, 2018 the Daily Monitor told the story of an enterprising lady farmer, called Annet Kyinkuhaire, who has done well by specialising in the growing of mangoes.
Annet was a subsistence farmer, growing maize and beans and other crops, in Kiruhura District, north-east of Mbarara. She attended a training course for farmers in Mbarara, where she picked up some ideas on how to identify a good cash crop to specialise in and to devote part of her land to it. With a loan, she bought 550 mango seedlings at Shs4,000 each. She chose a variety called Tommy Red because it was a firm fruit that would not be damaged by handling and transportation and it had a long shelf life. She planted the trees on 2.5-acres of land, which she weeds regularly and, when necessary, sprays to control mango hoppers. Where she lives, she can get two harvest a year, in June and December. The fruits each weight about 1kg and she sells them for Shs1,000 each. Buyers come from Kampala and Mbarara, and she supplies some supermarkets directly. Her income has grown each year. In the last two seasons she has earned about Shs3.5m (UK£760), which gives her a good living and enables her to pay school fees. Although not one of her goals, the trees, as they grow, are also acting as a carbon sink. Each year of growth they remove more CO2 from the atmosphere. So, Annet is also making her own significant contribution to reducing global warming.
- What do you think is the secret of Annet’s success?
- Find out about a farmer near you who is trying something new and tell the class about them.
- What are the challenges of specialisation? What are the rewards?
The Mango Tree: A Fable
Definition – A Fable is a short story with a moral message.
Once upon a time, there lived a big mango tree. A little boy loved to come and play around it every day.
He climbed to the treetop, ate the mangoes, took a nap under the shadow… He loved the tree and the tree loved to play with him.
Time went by… The little boy grew, and he no longer played around the tree.
One day, the boy came back to the tree with a sad look on his face.
“Come and play with me,” the tree asked the boy.
“I am no longer a kid. I don’t play around trees anymore.” The boy replied, “I want toys. I need money to buy them.”
“Sorry, I don’t have money… but you can pick all my mangoes and sell them so you will have money.”
The boy was so excited. He picked all the mangoes on the tree and left happily. The boy didn’t come back. The tree was sad.
One day, the boy, grown into a man, returned. The tree was so excited.
“Come and play with me,” the tree said.
“I don’t have time to play. I have to work for my family. We need a house for shelter. Can you help me?”
“Sorry, I don’t have a house, but you can chop off my branches to build your house.”
So, the man cut all the branches off the tree and left happily. The tree was glad to see him happy, but the boy didn’t come back afterward. The tree was again lonely and sad.
One hot summer day, the man returned, and the tree was delighted.
“Come and play with me!” The tree said.
“I am sad and getting old. I want to go sailing to relax myself. Can you give me a boat?”
“Use my trunk to build your boat. You can sail far away and be happy.”
So, the man cut the tree trunk to make a boat. He went sailing and didn’t come back for a long time.
Finally, the man returned after he had been gone for so many years.
“Sorry, my boy, but I don’t have anything for you anymore. No more mangoes to give you.” The tree said.
“I don’t have teeth to bite,” the man replied.
“No more trunk for you to climb on.”
“I am too old for that now,” the man said.
“I really can’t give you anything… the only thing left is my dying roots,” the tree said with sadness.
“I don’t need much now, just a place to rest. I am tired after all these years,” the man replied.
“Good! Old tree roots are the best place to lean on and rest. Come sit down with me and rest.”
The man sat down and the tree was glad and smiled.
By Shel Silverstein
What can we learn from this fable?
Note for Teachers:
When we use trees, we need to remember how they contribute to the lives of others of all ages. If we each take what we want from a tree, we may be depriving others of what they need, and we may destroy the very thing that gives us so many useful things.
Another way to interpret the story is to think of trees as the role parents play in supporting you through your life. They are prepared to sacrifice everything for their children.