Most Kiwis won’t be too familiar with Moringa, a mineral-rich, fast-growing and hardy tree that offers multiple food sources and health benefits. But with a growing focus on healthy foods, especially vegan and vegetarian, it's hard not to see this highly nutritious plant as the next best thing since kale, goji berries or chia seeds.
Known as the "Miracle Tree", Moringa has leaves that can be eaten like spinach, roots that are similar to horseradish, bark and leaves that can be dried and made into health supplements or ailment treatments, and seeds that can be used to aid water purification.
For ChildFund New Zealand, an international non-governmental organisation specialising in child-centered community development, Moringa has for many years been a highly valuable crop in its dedicated community of Emali in Kenya. Moringa is drought tolerant, making it ideal for this semi-arid area of east Kenya and it helps the community both as a nutritious food and an income source for local families, who grow and sell it
“Moringa’s high nutritional benefits and its multiple food and health uses make it a perfect local resource that Emali communities can develop to help achieve their health and livelihood goals,” says ChildFund New Zealand’s Programme Director Quenelda Clegg.
“It is called the 'Miracle Tree' Moringa for good reason. Not only can you use every part of this tree, but its ability to grow fast in poor soil and during drought makes it ideal for Emali farmers who want to feed, educate, and care for their children.”
Moringa is high in vitamin C and has vitamins A, B, D and E along with minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium and selenium. The leaves are rich in amino acid which are not commonly found in plants and it has three times the amount of iron found in spinach making it helpful in fighting anemia deficiencies and increasing energy levels.
The moringa seeds produce a beautiful oil that can be used to as a topical treatment or as a moisturiser. Also, when crushed, the seeds of the Moringa tree become a natural binder and can be used in water to catch fine substances such as bacteria, salt and other impurities as once clumped together they are more easily removed.
There have also been studies around the health benefits of eating Moringa including protection for the liver, boosting the immunity with cancer fighting properties and improving bone, eye and kidney health.
“Emali is a drought prone area, which causes huge challenges for these rural communities who rely on the land for food and income. Moringa crops therefore offer Emali families a way to nourish and provide for their children,” says Quenelda.
“Moringa’s range of food and health uses, its hardiness and its ability to produce incomes for local farmers make it ideal for the communities of Emali.”
ChildFund New Zealand, with the help of Kiwi supporters and through its local partner the Emali Dedicated Children’s Agency (EDCA), has worked with crop growers in Emali to help them grow and harvest Moringa and with business training to market and sell it. More recently the EDCA has worked with the community to process Moringa and launch a moringa product range including leaf powder, oils and body scrubs, which are for sale in Kenya.
Moringa seeds are sold in New Zealand along with a range Moringa based products, including skin care and health supplements. While not widely grown here, Moringa will thrive in a variety of locations and soils, with hard frosts being the only thing it doesn't tolerate well.
ChildFund New Zealand will be at The Auckland Food Show at the ASB Showgrounds from July 29th to August 1st with information about Moringa and our other nutrition and livelihood projects. To find out more or to get involved with any of ChildFund New Zealand’s work, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0800 808 822.
About ChildFund New Zealand:
For more than 80 years, ChildFund has been making the world a better place. A lot has changed since 1938, but our focus remains the same: We help children and youth to thrive.
Our programmes create sustainable change in communities across Africa, Central and South America, Asia and the Pacific. As part of the ChildFund Alliance, we reach 13 million children, youth and family members each year with education, clean water, sanitation, health care, nutrition and child protective services, and providing over NZD$840 million in programming support to communities across 63 countries. To learn more about ChildFund New Zealand, visit www.childfund.org.nz.