After four months of MOP preparation the first mango collection occurred yesterday, April 30, 2012, at Mabum Station, a village in Tonkolili District. The collection had some challenges, but was successful overall.
The biggest challenge was for the AFJ EW in accessing the money to purchase the mangoes. The Splash (mobile money transfer) did not come through to her until nearly 5:00 p.m. By this time, the bank was closed so the Splash agent could not access enough money. Hopefully next week the money will be sent in advance to each AFJ EW so they are set and ready to go for every collection. It was left for the AFJ EW to explain to the MaCoCo members through the CAC Chairman (who also happens to be the village headman). They accepted delayed payment without too much complaint and were paid this morning by the AFJ EW. I was pleasantly surprised that despite this challenge, the collection proceeded without much frustration.
Sorting the mangoes presented another challenge. Some farmers presented mangoes that were not yet ripe, but thankfully there were only a few crates of these green mangoes. The AFJ EW had to turn them down. These mangoes will not go to waste despite the fact that AFJ did not purchase them—they will ripen and either be used within the village or sold to the fresh market in Magburaka (the closest metropolitan area).
Normally it will be important that farmers only harvest the amount of crates specified in the text message, but because this was the first collection a slight excess was pre-approved by the factory the day before. The original plan was 250 crates, the actual number of crates sold was 283. Most of the MaCoCo members are women. The number of crates each member sold ranged from five to thirty-nine. This range would amount to 20,000 – 156,000 Le or approximately $4.60 - $35.86. Considering that these members are largely subsistence farmers supporting families and are living on $1-2 per day, the impact of that profit is notable. Adding the fact that May, June, and July are also called “the hungry time” because rice and groundnuts (peanuts) are not yet ready to harvest and the stores from the previous season are dwindling, the impact is profound.
About 95% of the crates sold were the Big Cherry variety—the one preferred by AFJ this year. This is likely due to ready availability of Big Cherry in this area instead of selective harvesting to meet the preference. No matter the reason, the factory will be pleased with this supplier.
I’ll conclude with one additional success. When the AFJ EW approached the secretary to determine the amount of payment, she pulled out her phone to do the calculation. When the secretary saw the AFJ EW making the calculation, he immediately began doing his own on the calculator provided by the MOP to verify the payment. The other MaCoCo leaders watched and agreed with the figure. Both the AFJ EW and the MaCoCo secretary came to the same figure and agreed to the purchase. It was so good to witness that the tools and training the team has worked on are being used and are helpful to the MaCoCo – AFJ business relationship.
The CAC Chairman making the verbal request to AFJ last Thursday
A MaCoCo member with her mangoes
Packing the crates
The discussion about how full the crates should be
Mohamed, the local pastor and the secretary for both the CAC and MaCoCo, setting up a table in the MOP notebook for keeping record of each member's transaction
AFJ EW checking mango quality
The World Hope Country Director, Saidu (right) and World Hope Regional Manager, Bernadette (left) were able to attend the collection to experience it firsthand
A mountain of mangoes
Packing the truck lasted until after the sun went down!
A MaCoCo member with her crates