Have you heard about the miracle tree?
Moringa oleifera is a fast-growing, multi-purpose tree native to India and popular in much of Africa and South America. Moringa is also known as the “drumstick” or “horseradish tree” because of the bitter taste of its roots. But apart from the roots, moringa leaves, seeds, flowers, seed pods, and stems may all be harvested for a myriad of uses. It has numerous medicinal and nutritional purposes. And it’s a water purifier. Its versatility earns it the name “miracle tree.”
Just a quick Google search reveals a vast assortment of moringa products for purchase online or at your local Whole Foods. Want some powder? Oil? Dietary supplements? Tea? Or facial cleansing balm?
The moringa plant loves the sun and is resilient in drought. This allows it to flourish in hot climates… like those of many countries where Food for the Hungry (FH) works! It’s durable. Resistant to pests. And cleans water and counteracts malnutrition. Those qualities make moringa an important, exciting, and cost-effective resource for countries struggling with poverty.
A woman harvests moringa at the Ilbarok Women’s Group demo farm in Ilbarok Village, Logologo, Marsabit County.
The Marvelous Multi-Purpose Moringa Tree
Here is a photo of a mother with her child showing us a moringa tree in Marsabit County of Kenya. For them, moringa has nutritional, medicinal, agricultural, and industrial uses! People can eat the leaves, flowers, and pods as a nutritious fresh vegetable. Dried leaves make tea. And moringa is a medicinal treatment for maladies ranging from anemia to diarrhea. Those are afflictions of many places where FH works…including Marsabit County.
It is also nutritious! Moringa has more iron than spinach, more vitamin C than oranges, and more potassium than bananas.
Malnutrition in Marsabit County
The 2017 Global Nutrition Report tells us that 2 billion people lacked key micronutrients like iron. Millions still lack access to clean drinking water. In Marsabit County, the people are mainly nomadic pastoralists (farmers!) whose livelihood relies on livestock. Only 2% of the county practices crop farming. There are water shortages and chronic lack of food. The droughts that occur every one to three years pose a constant challenge.
And, according to the World Food Programme, in 2015, less than half of the county’s households had an “acceptable” level of food consumption.
FH works with a woman named Purity in one of the Marsabit villages. She says that in the past, the women of her village “always fainted when giving birth.” And children were born with low blood counts. Both of these are symptoms of anemia. Iron deficiency. Families in this part of Kenya face challenges of climate and geography, need for agricultural efficiency, lack of green vegetables, and little dietary diversity. The result is malnutrition and hunger.
Where Does the Miracle Come In?
There are no miracle cures to poverty. We should never put our hope in any single solution–whether it’s education, clean water, savings groups, or deworming medicine.
But sometimes, long periods of walking beside families can reveal a transformation! Over the last few years, alongside other projects in Marsabit County, FH has been training community members, helping them fence land, and gain access to seeds and treelings. And we’ve aided them in planting crops, including moringa trees.
Ntisia Kukuton and her children enjoy a meal of moringa and ugali at home in Ilbarok Village, Logologo, Marsabit County.
A Miracle for Marsabit County?
This is a family that has incorporated moringa’s outputs into their household food consumption. Before, the family used to only eat boiled or fried beans. Now, because of the knowledge they have gained and the resources they have access to, they eat healthier foods. Her children eat kale and moringa!
Purity says that now, “when I visit a woman who has just given birth, I’ll find her comfortably holding and breastfeeding her baby. Cases of women fainting during birth have gone down…children are much healthier…I have a seen a huge transformation in their health. They have been taught how to cook and eat moringa.”
And the women of Marsabit County want others to know the miracle as well. Now, they desire that “the same benefits extended to other villages so that the transformation is felt in all of Marsabit County.” They add, “We’ve experienced the change here, and neighboring villages that have access to water and moringa. But if this spreads, all of Marsabit will have healthy nutrition.”