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Feb 21, 2015 5 Min Read

Growing Mangoes in the Kenyan Drylands

Garissa is a small town of just over 100,000 people in Eastern Kenya. It is a dry place and sits on the banks of the Tana river; a wide, winding river complete with crocodiles and hippo’s, but also a haven of vegetation in the desert sand. Deep in the recesses of the acacia trees and scrub found in this area, life is springing up from the arid landscape. In Anole, 1-hour from the Garissa town center, DOVE Christian Fellowship (an international church) together with Bethany International are collaborating on a project to bring hope to the deserted people groups in the area.

There are many people groups in the Garissa region
There are many people groups in the Garissa region

The project is unique in the area, taking a longer-term look on empowerment. DOVE, together with the support of Bethany, aims to provide medical care, agricultural training and other services to this community. Today, a basic clinic facility has been established, offering treatment to needy patients when supplies and volunteer nurses and doctors are available. A small farm has also been set up, intended to fund the project and provide the basis for training workshops in permaculture farming and other agricultural methods. Farm produce is being sold on the local market in places such as the “Naivas” supermarket, offering vital income to grow and expand the effort.

The banks of the Tana river teem with riverine vegetation and animal life
The banks of the Tana river teem with riverine vegetation and animal life

Daniel visited the project site to learn about the role that Kijani could play, and was pleased to find an opportunity to support the work of DOVE and Bethany. Kijani aims to plant fruit trees – in particular apple mango trees – over an area of 3 acres. The revenue will be used to support training programs by teaching the community about the viability of fruit-farming in this area. The market for mangos is strong – both in Kenya and abroad – and the hot climate in Garissa is perfectly suited for their cultivation. The aim is that the traditional pastoralist community, struggling through poverty and spells of drought, will be empowered to take advantage of these opportunities for the benefit of their families and communities.

The Tana river spirals through the desert landscape, bringing water to the thirsty soils
The Tana river spirals through the desert landscape, bringing water to the thirsty soils

How will water be provided, you ask? It’s a good question; mango trees require rigorous watering during their first three years after plantation. DOVE and Bethany raised over $10,000 to fund a high-powered pump to draw water from the Tana river, 1km away from the project site. Training to the local community will comprise modern techniques in drip irrigation and water harvesting.

We are excited about a partnership with DOVE and Bethany in Garissa. Plans are underway to set up a tree nursery where the mango trees will be nurtured. We also see other opportunities to support the project. The Tana river is a birdwatcher’s paradise – parrots and other rare birds fly in colorful abandon along its banks. Basic lodging to allow visitors to come in and marvel at the beautiful scenery will provide another means to support this important work.

A green parrot on the banks of the Tana
A green parrot on the banks of the Tana

Now to you; what opportunities to you see for further engagement of this community? How do other farming projects in dry areas innovatively address their challenges?

Thanks for reading!

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  1. Wonderful article, Daniel, revealing much more than meets the eye in the Kenyan desert. It is actually encouraging to see that there are church-based organisations involved in making the livelihoods of community living in/around Garissa town better.

    • Liz Wasirimba
    • Feb 23, 2015
    • Reply
    • Yea for sure, thanks Liz!

      Daniel Omondi
      • Daniel Omondi
      • Mar 1, 2015
      • Reply
  2. Godspeed!

    • Josephine Josiah
    • Feb 21, 2015
    • Reply
    • Thank you Josephine!

      Daniel Omondi
      • Daniel Omondi
      • Mar 1, 2015
      • Reply