to the Kariba REDD+ Project
The Kariba REDD+ Project spans 4 districts along the Zambezi valley. These are Binga, Nyaminyami, Hurungwe and Mbire. Since the Kariba REDD+ Project started in 2011, the local communities in these districts have been asking for assistance to finding alternative cash crops. During mid-2016 moringa oleifera was identified as having the potential to fulfill this cash crop need and with the increased global interest and demand, this quickly grew and thus the moringa project came to fruition.
One of the earliest recorded introductions of moringa oleifera in Zimbabwe was around 20 years ago in the northern district of Binga. It was introduced there as a nutritional supplement for the local rural community. Moringa oleifera has since naturalized, growing wild in many districts across the country.
The Kariba REDD+ Project took to training and making community members conscious with regards to how to grow, manage, harvest and dry the leaf and seeds. The project’s main focus is to promote the harvesting of wild moringa trees which does not receive any special attention and is not managed with any chemicals or inorganic fertilizers and although not organically certified is considered to be organically grown.
Continuous surveys are being done to determine the extent of area where these trees are growing. Currently there are over 300 community members who harvest leaf and seed from these naturally growing trees and with the project area covering over 1 million h ectares of land we feel that we are only scratching the surface with potential.
As already mentioned, the projects primary focus is to assist the local communities with an alternative cash crop which does not require much time and very little to no input as moringa oleifera is drought resistant and not susceptible to many diseases. Together with the Kariba REDD+ Projects other activities such as climate smart agriculture, nutritional gardening and beekeeping, we see this as having a very positive effect on the lives of many poor people.
We have seen the production increase remarkably over the space of a few short months to where we are now producing an average of 1.5 tonnes every month. Our wish is to increase this volume exponentially as markets develop and demand increases.
History of Moringa
Highly valued by the ancient Roman, Greek and Egyptian civilizations, the Moringa tree is now being “rediscovered” in many areas of the globe. A native plant of the Western Himalayas and India, Moringa is now widely grown throughout the tropics. There are 14 varieties of Moringa that come from several different regions. The variety we grow in Mali is the Moringa Oleifera and is also known as the Ben-oil tree, Cabbage tree, Horseradish tree, Drumstick tree, Mother’s Best Friend and Miracle tree. The Moringa plant is native to Northern India, where it was first described around 2000 B.C. as a medicinal herb.
The oral tradition of Ayurvedic medicine in India declared that Moringa prevents 300 diseases. Ancient Egyptians treasured Moringa oil as protection for their skin from the ravages of desert weather. Later, the Greeks found many healthful uses for Moringa and introduced it to the Romans. Over the centuries, the Moringa plant has been carried to all the tropical parts of the world, where it readily takes root. It is commonly used for food, for medicinal purposes, as a wind-break in fields, and many other purposes. The Moringa plant spread eastward form India to the lower parts of China, Southeast Asia and the Philippines.
From India it also spread westward to Egypt, the Horn of Africa, around the Mediterranean, and finally to the West Indies in America. On the island of Jamaica in 1817, a petition concerning Moringa oil was presented to the Jamaican House of Assembly. It described the oil as being useful for salads and culinary purposes, and being equal to the best Florence oil as an illuminator–giving clear light without smoke. The leaves and pods were likewise used in local recipes. In America, Moringa can be found in markets, which cater to immigrants from India, Sri Lanka, China and the Philippines. Usually this is in the form of frozen or canned foodstuffs.
Moringa Oleifera is a deciduous tree that grows up to 12 meters tall with an umbrella-shaped crown. Moringa is extraordinarily vigorous and grows very well in dry climates (or in climates with long periods of dryness and short periods of rain) and in areas with poor soil quality. The trees can be propagated from seedlings, seeds, or cuttings. It grows extremely fast and regularly reaches up to four meters in its first year. A mature tree flowers once a year and in some places twice a year.
Leaves: Leaves alternate, bi or tri-pinnate, 20-70 cm long. Leaflets are usually oval, rounded at the tip and 1-2 cm long. They are dark green in color and almost whitish on the lower surface.
Flowers: Cream colored and yellow in long sprays, each flower holds five petals, one erect and four bent back. The flower is sweet smelling and attractive to insects, especially bees.
Seed Pods: Long capsules that are 45 cm long and triangular in shape. When dry they split open to reveal dark brown, 3-winged seeds.
Wood: The wood is very soft and not very useful for carpentry or charcoal making but can be used as firewood or for making blue dye.
An individual needs sufficient amounts of certain vitamins, minerals, protein and other nutrients to maintain a healthy body and physical well-being. The Moringa tree is an excellent source for many of these nutrients and can be a valuable source for many people of the African sub-region. Just 100 grams of fresh leaves will provide a child ages 1-3 with all his daily requirements for calcium, about 75% of his iron and about half of his protein needs, as well as important supplies of potassium, B vitamins, copper and all the essential amino acids. For a pregnant or breast-feeding woman, 10 grams of fresh leaves can supply over a third of her daily calcium requirements as well as provide necessary quantities of iron, protein, copper, sulfur and B vitamins.
|Carrots: 1890 mcg
|Oranges: 30 mg
|Cow’s milk: 120 mg
|Bananas: 88 mg
|Cow’s milk: 3.2 gm
Protein: Proteins are the “building blocks of life” and instrumental in the creation and maintenance of body muscle. There are 21 amino acids utilized by the body and although the body is able to manufacture most that it needs, there are several amino acids that must be acquired from a person’s diet. These “essential” amino acids are listed in the chart above (argentine, histidine, lysine, tryptophan, phenylanaline, methionine, thereonine, leucine, isoleucine, valine). Usually, only animal products such as meat, eggs, and dairy contain all of the essential amino acids. Amazingly, Moringa leaves also contain them all.
Carbohydrates: Compounds heat and energy for the body and the primary fuel of the brain. Deficiency can cause the body to divert proteins and body fat to produce needed energy.
Fat: Fat is the most concentrated form of energy for the body and while excessive amounts can be damaging, some body fat is essential for insulation under the skin and protection of vital organs. It is also an important supply of energy for the body during times of famine.
Fiber: Fiber aids in digestion and is an important part of a healthy intestinal tract.
Calcium (Ca): Very important during the childhood years, calcium builds strong bones and teeth and assists in blood clotting. Deficiencies are common in pregnant and breastfeeding women and can cause rickets, bone pain and muscle weakness. Calcium builds strong bones and teeth, and helps prevent osteoporosis. Milk provides a lot of calcium, but Moringa leaves provide even more. 4 times the Calcium of Milk.
Magnesium (Mg): Magnesium helps the body to maintain and repair cells while providing energy. Deficiencies can result in weakness, tiredness, vertigo, convulsions, nervousness, cramps and heart palpitations.
Vitamin A: Vitamin A acts as a shield against diseases of the eyes, skin and heart, diarrhea, and many other ailments. Carrots are very high in vitamin A, but Moringa leaves are even higher. 4 times the vitamin A of carrots.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C strengthens our immune system and fights infectious diseases including colds and flu. Citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons are full of vitamin C. Moringa leaves have even more. 7 times the Vitamin C of oranges.
Potassium: Potassium is essential for the brain and nerves. Bananas are the excellent source of potassium. Moringa leaves are even better. 3 times the Potassium of Bananas.
MORINGA OLEIFERA NUTRITIONAL VALUE
Analysis of Moringa pods, fresh (raw) leaves and dried leaf powder has shown them to contain the following per 100 grams of edible portion.
|Oxalic acid (mg)
|Vitamin A – B carotene (mg)
|Vitamin B -choline (mg)
|Vitamin B1 -thiamin (mg)
|Vitamin B2 -riboflavin (mg)
|Vitamin B3 -nicotinic acid (mg)
|Vitamin C -ascorbic acid (mg)
|Vitamin E -tocopherol acetate (mg)
|Arginine (g/16g N)
|Histidine (g/16g N)
|Lysine (g/16g N)
|Tryptophan (g/16g N)
|Phenylanaline (g/16g N)
|Methionine (g/16g N)
|Threonine (g/16g N)
|Leucine (g/16g N)
|Isoleucine (g/16g N)
|Valine (g/16g N)
Table 1 Source Lowell J. Fuglie
Many of the above vitamins, minerals and amino acids are very important for a healthy diet. An individual needs sufficient levels of certain vitamins, minerals, proteins and other nutrients for his physical development and well-being. A deficiency of any one of these nutrients can lead to health problems. Some of the problems caused by deficient diets are well known: scurvy, caused by lack of vitamin C; night blindness, caused by lack of vitamin A; kwashiorkor, caused by lack of protein; anemia, caused by lack of iron. Many other health problems are caused by lack of vitamins or minerals which are less known, but still essential to a person’s bodily functions.
Moringa Oil, A Cosmetic Legend
The natural goodness of Moringa oil dates back thousands of years ago. The Romans recognised the natural properties of Moringa oil and used it extensively in perfumes. The Egyptians also recognised its natural protective properties and used it on their skin to protect themselves from the harsh desert conditions. Both these uses have been documented by these ancient cultures.
Moringa Oil Properties
Help for dry skin
- It softens dry skin and maintains moisture in the skin.
- It is good for conditioning dry, chapped lips.
- It’s beneficial to treat rough, dry skin conditions like dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis.
- Moringa oil rejuvenates dull, tired and aging skin.
- Moringa oil antioxidants and nutrients help fight free radical damage that can cause skin tissue damage and lead to the formation of wrinkles.
- Moringa oil helps improve the appearance of wrinkles and prevents sagging of facial muscles.
- Moringa oil plant hormones called cytokinins, which help promote cell growth and delay damage and destruction of skin tissues.
- Vitamin C stabilizes collagen and helps reduce fine lines and repair damaged skin cells.
Antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties
- Moringa oil has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and has been used to treat and heal minor skin abrasions; minor cuts and scrapes, bruises, burns, insect bites, rashes, and sunburn and skin infections.
Acne & dark spot prevention
- Moringa oil helps clear blackheads and pimples. When used regularly helps prevent the reoccurrence of blemishes.
- Helps minimize dark spots from acne and hyperpigmentation.
Moringa oil has nourishing and emollient properties giving it benefits for use in skin and hair care products. Moringa oil is useful in lifting dirt out of the hair and is an efficient natural cleanser. By simply wetting the hair, massaging the oil into the scalp and rinsing can effectively clean and moisturize the scalp.
The Moringa oil does not become rancid for several years after it is produced.
Moringa oil is a concentrated source of food energy
Small amounts of Moringa oil added to the diet of young children can provide them with a more varied and nutritious diet. Moringa oil is rich in vitamins and unsaturated fatty acids. Moringa oil contains antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, which help heal minor skin complaints such as cuts, bruises, burns, insect bites, rashes and scrapes quickly. Its use can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, who placed vases filled with moringa oil inside their tombs.
Moringa oil is among the most wanted oils to produce skin care products and cosmetics, because of its various antioxidants and skin rejuvenating qualities. These antioxidants do wonders for aging and skins lacking nutrients.
With a great amount of oleic acid content of 72%, Moringa oil penetrates very deep into the skin, bringing the necessary nutrients to the skin and hair, helping it to retain moisture. Moringa oil can be used to increase the health and strength of the hair and scalp.
So one of the greatest advantages of moringa oil, is skin care and rejuvenation, stronger and healthier hair. Although there are new and innovative ways to reduce wrinkles and restore vitality to the skin, the secret to youthful skin lies in keeping a healthy living environment for skin cells to live, and Moringa oil can do this very well.
To enjoy the wonderful benefits of moringa on skin, simply apply moringa oil and lightly massage on skin. Leave it on for several minutes so the skin would be nourished with the vitamins and minerals present in moringa.
Uses of Moringa
All of the parts of the tree can be used in a variety of ways. Moringa is full of nutrients and vitamins and is good in your food as well as in the food of your animals. Moringa helps to clean dirty water and is a useful source of medicines. It provides lots of leafy material that is useful when using alley-cropping systems.
All Moringa food products have a very high nutritional value. You can eat the leaves, especially young shoots, young pods, flowers, roots, and in some species even the bark. Leaves are low in fats and carbohydrates and rich in minerals, iron and vitamin B. It is particularly useful as a human food because the leaves appear towards the end of the dry season when few other sources of green leafy vegetables are available.
Of all the products of the tree the leaves are used the most. They become tougher as they get older so it is best to pick the growing tips and young leaves. Remove the leaves from the woody stem, as this will not soften during cooking. The leaves can be used in the same way as spinach. An easy way of cooking them is to steam 2 cups of freshly picked leaves for a few minutes in one cup of water, seasoned with an onion, butter and salt or other seasonings according to taste.
A leaf powder can be produced by drying the leaves and crushing or pounding them. You can sift the powder to remove leaf stems. This powder can then be added to sauces at the same time as other condiments or vegetables are added.
The flowers can be cooked and mixed with other foods or fried in batter. They can also be placed in hot water for five minutes to make a kind of tea. They are also a good source of nectar for honey producing bees.
The pods can be eaten from when they first appear to when they become too woody to snap easily (up to 30cm long). They are cooked like other green beans and have a similar flavor to asparagus. Beware as some bitter varieties are poisonous if too many are eaten.
Even the pods that have become too woody can be boiled until they are tender. They are opened and the white flesh is scraped out and returned to the boiling water. This can be used in soups and stews.
The seeds are often referred to as peas and can be used from the time they appear until they turn yellow and their shells begin to harden. Experience will help decide when the best time to harvest the pods for their peas. To cook, remove from the pod with their soft winged shells intact and as much white flesh that can be scraped out from the pod. Put the peas and flesh into a strainer and wash them to remove the sticky, bitter film that covers them, or boil them for a few minutes then drain and boil again in fresh water. They can then be used as any other green pea. When the seeds are mature, their coating hardens and becomes bitter. This can be pressed for oil extraction. If a press is not available the seeds can be browned or roasted, ground, added to boiling water and the oil floats to the surface. The seeds contain 35% oil and this is used for cooking purposes. The oil does not turn rancid and also burns without smoke.
A sauce similar to horseradish sauce can be made from the roots when the seedling is only 60cm tall. The root bark should be completely removed as it contains harmful substances, then the root is ground up and vinegar and salt are added. However, it should not be eaten in excess. It is best to store the sauce in a refrigerator.
The gum that is found in the bark can be used to season food.
Cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and poultry browse the bark, leaves and young shoots of Moringa. The best diet for pigs is 70% Moringa, 10% Leucaena and 20% other leaves. It is possible for their diet to be 100% Moringa but it should be no more than 30% Leucaena. The pork from pigs fed on this diet is lean. If trees are intended for animal fodder it is useful to prune them to 4m high, but if they are not they should be pruned to 6m so harvesting for human consumption can be easily carried out. Livestock diets are improved by the addition of Moringa products.
Medicinal Properties and Uses
In addition to its high nutritional value, M. oleifera is very important for its medicinal value. (Anwar 2007)
The flowers, leaves and roots are widely used as remedies for several ailments.
Leaves: Fresh leaves are good for pregnant and lactating mothers; they improve milk production and are prescribed for anaemia. Leaf juice is used as a diuretic; it increases urine flow and cures gonorrhoea. Leaf juice mixed with honey treats diarrhoea, dysentery and colitis (colon inflammation).
The leaf juice has a stabilising effect on blood pressure and controls glucose levels in diabetic patients.In India and Nicaragua, leaves and young buds are rubbed on the temple for headache.In India and the Philippines, a poultice made from fresh leaves is applied to reduce glandular swelling.
Leaf juice is sometimes used as a skin antiseptic.Leaves are used as an irritant and as a purgative.In Nicaragua, Guatemala and Senegal, leaves are applied as poultice on sores and skin infections.
(Source: Maroyi, 2006; Moringa for Life: Moringa Medicine Pharmacopoeia)
Seeds: Moringa seeds are effective against skin-infecting bacteria Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research 1962, Oliver-Bever 1986).
Bark: The bark of the moringa root should be scraped off because of its toxicity and the flesh of the root should be eaten sparingly (Oliver-Bever, 1986). A paste made from bark treats boils. Paste from ground bark can be applied to relieve pain caused by snake, scorpion and insect bites. Oil is sometimes applied externally for skin diseases (Maroyi, 2006).
Moringa oleifera is already highly esteemed by people in the tropics and sub-tropics for the many ways it is used medicinally by local herbalists. In recent years, laboratory investigation has confirmed the efficacy of some of these applications (Moringa for Life).