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a visit to our mango farms

Our Sustainability Advisor Charlotte went to India recently to visit some of our mango farmers and see for herself the results of a project we're running which is helping our farmers to protect their yields from the effects of climate change. Here's the story of her trip:

Hubli Charvran is a calm, meditative farmer who has been farming his 25-acre mango orchard on the western coast of India for over 15 years. Hubli is one of our mango suppliers; we use his mangoes in our smoothies and juices. I went out to visit and to see first-hand what Hubli is doing to make sure his farm is as sustainable and productive as possible, and to make a little film about it.

Hubli, one of our mango farmers

A few years ago, we’d visited our mango farmers and found that they were struggling with lower mango yields due to the combined effects of climate change and poor farming practices. Climate change is causing higher temperatures and more erratic monsoons. When we saw how it was directly affecting our farmers, we started a project in partnership with the University of Konkan to improve things. We wanted to find sustainable ways to make the trees as strong and resilient as possible, so that they can still produce high mango yields despite the changing climate. The project was called the 5 Point Agriculture Project, because there are 5 stages involved in strengthening the trees, and Hubli joined the project a few years ago.

As well as making the film, I also went to India to meet up with some organisations who may be able to help us with the next phase of the project, and to conduct routine assessments of some of our mango farms against our innocent sustainable agriculture standards.

After a 15-hour journey I arrived at Goa airport at 6am local time, where it was already a sweltering 35 degrees. The roads were already packed with chaotic traffic, the hoots of car horns echoing around everywhere. At the airport I met Budhwant, my guide. Budhwant was hilarious. Mad about mangoes (he eats mangoes all the time, from morning until night, and even has mango-flavoured car sweets), he was an avid font of knowledge about all different types of trees, pointing out all the different species we passed during our 5-hour car journey, and stopping regularly to pick up fruits from the side of the road so I could taste them. Unfortunately Budhwant’s driving wasn’t as impressive as his tree knowledge. Let’s just say it was an interesting 5 hours… That afternoon I had a good meeting with one of our mango suppliers, followed by two of the most delicious curries I’ve ever tasted. 

On my second morning in India I headed straight out to the farms. The farmers and their families were incredibly warm and welcoming, and were happy to show me everything and answer all of my questions. They plied me with fresh coconut juice and freshly picked mangoes still warm from the sun. It was an unforgettable day. The farmers were all really excited about the results of the project: the trees that had been cared for using the 5 point plan regime had started to produce 25% more mangoes and higher quality fruit, compared to trees that had been managed in the traditional way. Since the mangoes had only just ripened, I was lucky enough to see the difference for myself – I was surprised how obvious it was which trees had been involved in our project: they looked much healthier, and had many more mangoes.

At the end of Day 2 I was joined by Jim and Kev, who’d be helping me to make the film. There was a bit of panic when they turned up without their camera equipment, which had gone AWOL in transit, but miraculously it all turned up 6 hours later.

We spent two days making the film, which may seem a bit excessive seeing as it’s only one minute long, but there was simply so much to say and so much beauty and interest to try and capture that we hardly stopped at all. We spent both days at the farms involved in the 5 point project, starting at dawn and finishing after sunset in order to make the most of the best light. I’m not a film-maker and I’d never heard of the ‘golden hour’, or appreciated the benefits of filming in this soft evening light, when the golden sunshine dapples through the trees and the shadows disperse. But Jim and Kev were fanatical about it, insisting that Budhwant drove us around to find the best spot. They even clambered up a half-constructed five storey building via bamboo ladders to get a good view of the sunset from the top (don’t try this at home). The madness paid off, though, because the sunsets on the west coast of India are truly breathtaking, and we got some incredible footage.

an Indian sunset

Hubli is now an ambassador for the 5 point agriculture project. He was so impressed with the results on his own farm that he’s now an advocate for the importance of farming in harmony with nature, working with natural forces rather than against them. His knowledge about how to create the best organic compost, natural pest control measures and clay pot irrigation kept me captivated all day long. And his words of wisdom about the importance of slowing down the pace of life, following your hopes and dreams, and adopting Buddhist philosophies affected Jim, Kev and I very profoundly. (As did the copious amounts of fresh coconut water.)

Our guide Budhwant wasn’t particularly interested in these conversations, though. Instead he was busy thinking about where he could buy his next box of fresh mangoes. By the end of our trip, Budhwant had bought 72 mangoes, and there was barely any room left in the car for our filming equipment.

You can watch the film we made here, I hope you like it: