Miracle Moringa, Growing Wild in African Backyards
By Wickham Boyle*
April 26, 2012—I had never heard of Moringa, and I dabble a bit in the health food aisles of many shops, looking for ways to make my family healthier without the intervention of Western medicine. I love plant remedies, and natural food supplements that boost the nutritional content of food. So, I was overjoyed to be introduced to the miraculous Moringa plant while visiting a variety of UMCOR nutritional programs in Ghana, which are supported by the Sustainable Agriculture and Development (UMCOR SA&D) division.
Imagine a tree that will actually augment a village's nutritional needs. This tree exists; it is the Moringa, Latin moniker: Moringa oleifera. You can utilize virtually every part of the tree: leaves, bark, seedpods, and branches. This tree, though little known in the West, is really a nutritional miracle, and UMCOR trainers are teaching people in far-flung villages how to process Moringa and cook with it.
Consider this: 25 grams daily of Moringa leaf powder, which the UMCOR production unit creates easily and abundantly, will give a child 42 percent of their required protein, 125 percent of calcium, 61 percent of magnesium, 71 percent of iron, and a whopping 272 percent of vitamin A. These numbers are particularly astounding considering this nutrition is available when other food sources may be scarce.
The Moringa Production Unit on the property of the Accra Diocese is not ostentatious by any means. It is a simple wood building painted bright blue and surrounded by Moringa trees growing in blinding sunshine. The Moringa plants were in various stages from seedlings to harvested, or in the process of experimentation.
The winsome and well-versed Benedict Kyei, who if he were not working for UMCOR and spreading the word about Moringa to villages far and wide might have a bang-up career as a talk show host, oversees it. Benedict was constantly on, and full of pride about the nutritional programs he spearheads, as he and two other employees gave two UMCOR trainers and me a tour of the plant.
We watched the culling process; the double, sometimes triple, washing process; the initial drying on screens; the ensuing dehydration, which takes place in modern oven-like machines; then the grinding and the containerization of the spring-green, aromatic herbs into jars, pills, or large containers for use, well, they hope, fingers crossed, worldwide. But for now it is enough that swathes of villages across Ghana are experiencing improved health by participating in the educational training that teaches mothers how to use Moringa.
After we praised the compact processing plant, we jumped into the jeep with William Dzotor and Janet Mina, two more UMCOR trainers, to drive to Afuman village, where I got to sample firsthand a scrumptious stew made with Moringa. The women and men in the nutritional program, which also includes honey harvesting and soya utilization, literally tripped over one another to tell tales of how their health has changed since the introduction of Moringa.
One woman said a doctor had told her she needed an operation and that she should return to the hospital after her child was born. But, instead, after she added Moringa to her diet, the doctor was astounded to see her restored to full health. Once villagers know how to identify the wild Moringa and encourage its growth by clipping it close to produce a second and possibly third crop of valuable leaves, it is simple to keep the nutrition momentum going.
No one is predicting dramatic results on a regular basis, but I will say that the babies I saw were chubby and full of joy. The mothers seemed less stressed by the vagaries of how to achieve healthy diets since they began to participate in the nutrition education program. In fact, many are teaching other villagers on an ad hoc basis, so the notion of teaching a person to fish was in full evidence with the Moringa program.
I am back home now, and my cupboard in downtown Manhattan is bulging with jars of Moringa powder that I brought back with me. I sneak it into soups, pasta sauces, and even make teas with it. There is so much we can all learn from each other.
Your support for UMCOR Sustainable Agriculture and Development, UMCOR Advance #982188
, will help more people in vulnerable situations “learn to fish” for a healthier, more nutritional diet.
*Wickham Boyle is a writer and a frequent contributor to www.umcor.org.