Planting Mangoes to Curb Bride Burning and Female Feticide in India


In addition to packing a hefty antioxidant punch, the mango – a superfruit if there ever was one – is now proven to fend off poverty, global warming, and sexism.

According to an article in the BBC News, residents of the Dharhara village in the Bhagalpur district of northwestern India have engaged in a social experiment using mangoes to up the value of their daughters. In many parts of India, girls are seen as less desirable than boys. Families want a male heir, and a son is seen as an extra source of income for the family.  Female feticide – in which doctors illegally abort unborn baby girls on the basis of their sex alone – is rampant throughout India, with 50 million girls missing, according to UNICEF. Female feticide has created a shortage of eligible brides in India, with males in some urban regions traveling to rural areas to secure a wife. But girls who aren’t aborted are often subject to extreme domestic violence later in life. Bride burning, in which men set fire to their wives for lack of a sufficient dowry, occurs in parts of India.

It is against this grisly backdrop that the residents of Dharhara have decided to make their daughters more valuable in Indian society. For every girl born, the family plants at least 10 mango trees in the village. The mangoes provide a source of income for the parents, allowing them to save enough money for a dowry upon their daughter’s marriage – thus avoiding the violence that accompanies a scanty marriage settlement. One mango orchard yields about $4,245 worth of mangoes each season, enough to supplement the familial income, with leftover money going in a bank account for the child’s dowry.

“We heard about it from our fathers and they from their fathers. It has been in the family and the village from ages,” Subhendu Kumar Singh, a school teacher, told the BBC. “This is our way of meeting the challenges of dowry, global warming and female foeticide. There has not been a single incident yet of female foeticide or dowry death in our village.”

While the Dharhara tradition shelters the village’s girls from the misogyny in greater India, the fact that mango trees alone can make a girl more valuable speaks volumes of the undervaluing of women in the first place. Preferable, of course, is a major cultural shift, one in which women – mango trees or not – are treasured from birth like men. But barring that, the Dharhara mango project is a model worth emulating.

Image: Mickey_boy[L]