Mango trees' role in securing basic needs
Our vision at the Foundation is not just to build schools and provide an access to education, but to also secure the basic needs of people in rural Africa. One of our most important projects to this end is the large-scale plantation of mango trees around the schools, as it addresses several regional issues.
While starvation is rare, malnutrition is common in rural Burkina Faso. The main staple is “foufou”, which consists of pounded and boiled millet. It contains few vitamins, and most people eat it just once a day. Mangoes provide an important source of nourishment and vitamins that directly help strengthen the immune system.
In addition to their nutritional benefits, mango trees provide a vital source of shade. Daytime temperatures often reach 40°C and in the midst of this intolerable heat, the cool space under a mango tree becomes an important meeting place for the village community. It is a space where children can play, study and rest.
Another goal of this project is to teach pupils responsibility. Each student is given a tree to look after, so that they can learn how to plant and care for trees. It is a knowledge that can then be passed on to their parents and the next generation.
Mango trees create a micro-ecosystem
Due to the rapidly expanding population, and the predominance of firewood as the main source of fuel, Burkina Faso has lost an estimated 60% of its trees in the last 15 years. This has led to detrimental consequences for the environment. Trees provide shade, protect the soil from erosion, stop desertification and regulate the groundwater regime. In addition to this, trees contribute to the soil fertility, and to its biodiversity as they provide a habitat for many species.
With Burkina Faso’s hot and dry climate and the severe shortage of rain between October and June, many plants and saplings simply cannot survive. In addition to this many are destroyed by termites. Moreover, pesticides and fertilizers are both prohibitively expensive and damaging to the environment. Therefore we have developed an innovative concept.
Before we plant the tree, a hole is dug, filled with old bones and meat, and left for a few days. After a while, the bones and meat start attracting ants, which colonize the hole and eat the termites, serving as a natural insecticide. As the trees grow, animals such as chickens are kept in their shade, their dung providing natural fertilizer for the trees.
Instead of watering the trees twice a day, Francis Kéré came up with the following idea: placing traditional hand-made clay pots next to the trees, with drippers targeted directly to the roots. The clay pots prevent evaporation from taking place and only need to be filled once a week, giving the trees a small but constant supply of water. This is an example of how a simple yet effective method can have a positive impact for the Gando community.
How you can get involved
We have planted approximately 500 mango trees, and we plan to continue until each pupil has his/her own tree. The cost per tree is approximately 50 Euros, which covers the cost of the plant, the clay plot, the dripper system, a protective fence and the labour costs for digging a hole and covering general maintenance.