• Visit any part of rural Lower Eastern region, commonly known as ‘Ukambani’ and this is the time the habitants get sufficiently philanthropic.
• You will be amazed by the amount of mangoes you will eat, straight from the farm. But how can the community benefit from this fruit?
The best things in life are the experiences we share, savor, and discover. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the United States’ Napa Valley, where it is said that anyone and everyone can experience a taste of the good life.
Napa county is north of San Francisco in California. It's known for hundreds of hillside vineyards in the Napa Valley wine region. In the city of Napa, there are public markets and restaurants that feature regional gourmet food.
People go to Napa Valley to taste the grapes — plain and simple —with several hundred wineries to sample from and tour. As a result, this has turned Napa into a touristic place and a place for luxury living.
The typical high season in Napa is during the grape harvest season that runs from August to October of every year. This is what is called the ‘crush’ season.
Here in Kenya, it is now the mango ‘crush’ season once again.
The Eastern part of the country has trees loaded with the wonderful tropical fruit, and the very good people of Kambaland are now trending.
Why do I say they are very good people?
Visit any part of rural Lower Eastern region, commonly known as ‘Ukambani’ and this is the time the habitants get sufficiently philanthropic. You will be amazed by the amount of mangoes you will eat, straight from the farm.
You might even find yourself carrying a whole sack in the trunk of your car back home. The sweetness of the Ukambani mango is beyond imaginable, having been seasoned well to maturity by the blazing heat.
Most of the mangoes that come from this part of the country are indigenous, or if you are religious, you can say they are a God-given asset to the community. Other than the indigenous, smaller variety, others are of the bigger variety and equally thrive in terms of quality.
How can the community benefit from this fruit? Is it, for instance, possible for their leaders to create something like a seasonal fruit festival? Have both public and private orchards as well as public markets, incorporating the purchase of the fruit at better bargains, amidst other complimentary activities?
Is it possible to turn the best fruit producing areas in the region into a mini-Napa and create a lifestyle around it, during the high season?
Visitors, who would subscribe to this idea, can enjoy the delicious fruit by visiting an orchard, public or private, where they will have the chance to pick and taste their chosen variety at its freshest. They may even put aside a few for later.
It is a wonderful opportunity not only to savor some of the regions’ most famous mangoes, but they can also to get to know the farmers whose expertise and loving care nurture its growth from blossom to ready-to-eat ripe fruit.
The fruit festival can attract wholesalers, retailers, local and international tourists and this will in turn boost other tourist spots in the major fruit producing counties notably Kitui and Makueni.
Giving credit where it is due, Makueni county government has done a lot around the value addition of the fruit by coming up with a fruit processing plant. This has in turn provided opportunities for local farmers and investors to own a stake and grow wealth, learn new technologies and learn about value addition to increase farm incomes.
Visitors, specifically during the fruit season, will increase income of those areas holistically. A number of sectors will benefit, including agriculture, transport, hotel and Airbnb establishments and other trickle-down benefits. Increase in business will in turn encourage the farmers to ensure better yields, and it will also encourage them to have other seasonal fruits and vegetable that thrive like pawpaw, lemon and pumpkin, amongst others.
The benefits of mango cannot be swept under the carpet. Research has it that this fruit is packed with nutrients, low in calories, may help prevent diabetes, high in healthy plant compounds, contains immune-boosting nutrients, supports heart health, may improve digestive health and may support eye health.
In this day and age of hardship, nothing should be free, especially with the rate at which the peasant mango farmers are taken advantage of by relatives, middlemen and exporters.
Let us remember, these seasonal mangoes we are slightly taking for granted are retailing at an arm and a leg somewhere in international markets with those enjoying the fruit wishing they had it in abundance like we do.
Vera is a part-time lecturer and a communications researcher [email protected]