Saturday, October 23, 2010

Moringa Tree: One Answer to Malnutrition

By Hank Bruce and Tomi Jill Folk

According to Bread for the World 1.2 billion people on this planet are malnourished, and this number has increased in the past 5 years. That’s 15% of the world’s population, and many of these are children. In fact, every day 16,000 children die from hunger related causes. But this doesn’t have to be.

What if there was a way to grow our way out of malnutrition and hunger in many parts of the world including much of Africa and Latin America? There is. It’s called the moringa tree and it will grow in the same parts of the world where malnutrition is the worst.

 Tree of Life International has put together presentations about the benefits of the moringa tree.  Click on this page and scroll down on the right-hand side to access a Powerpoint presentation and a .PDF download.

You may not think of tree leaves as a part of your everyday diet, but take a look at the nutritional value of these moringa leaves. And they taste good, too. These nutritious leaves can be dried and powdered for family use.

Moringa leaf powder, ounce for ounce, has:

7 times the vitamin C as in oranges,
4 times the calcium, 2 times the protein as in milk,
4 times the vitamin A as in carrots,
3 times the potassium as in bananas, and
3 times the iron as in spinach.

What if moringa trees were a part of the family or dooryard gardens in some of the poorest parts of the world. It’s happening in Kenya through the efforts of some great organizations like Judy Phillip’s African United States Partnership Fund where thousands of women are planting one or two moringa trees along with the other vegetables.

Joshua Machinga is working with Common Ground to establish moringa for household use and income in areas where the over 70% of the population is malnourished. Paul Kilelu is working with a fantastic organization, the Maasai Emayian Women’s Group  is providing schooling for girls, encouraging family gardening, school gardening and moringa cultivation. These are dynamic grassroots projects started by the people themselves. In a short period of time moringa can have a powerful impact on malnutrition, hunger and the diseases caused by poverty and malnutrition.

Safe Drinking Water 
A billion people across Asia, Africa, and Latin America are estimated to rely on untreated surface water for their daily needs. Of these, two million are thought to die from diseases contracted from contaminated water every year, with the majority of these deaths occurring among children under five years of age. But, this doesn’t have to be.

What if there was an environmentally friendly way to provide safe drinking water in some of the most difficult regions of the world?
There is. It’s the same tree, Moringa oleifera. It can be used on a small scale, with a few crushed seeds able to purify a bucket of water. Impurities are absorbed in a colloidal flocculent effect, making the water safe to drink and use for cooking. This could be a micro-enterprise project with local production of packets of the moringa seed powder (in biodegradable packets made from paper made from moringa branches). Moringa seed powder for water purification is low-tech, very inexpensive and environmentally friendly.

Micro-enterprise and Fair Trade
What if there was a sustainable resource that could provide both food for the growers and marketable fair trade commodities for export in some of the poorest regions of the world?
There is. And again it is the moringa tree. It is fast growing under even very harsh conditions.

The range of potential moringa products includes: Life saving food sources from leaves, nutritional juices and drinks, seed powder for safe drinking water, both at the family level and larger scale, vegetable oils, renewable fuel oils, artist oils, paper products, plant growth enhancers, soaps, cleaning compounds, cosmetics.

Moringa tea has the potential to be as successful a fair trade item as coffee and chocolate.  This is a flavorful, healthy, environmentally friendly drink. This tea has a natural, spicy flavor, either hot or iced. It can be made in a variety of specialty flavors including; ginger, cinnamon, licorice, apple, orange, strawberry, basil, rosemary, lavender and many more flavors. This it the kind of tea party we can all support.

Hank Bruce
Our hope is that we can create an awareness and cultivation in family and dooryard gardens for use by the families, then help to develop a market for moringa products including teas, leaf powder capsules, bulk leaf powder, oil and some of the cosmetics that can be made from this great resource.

If these could be produced as a fair trade product line in Africa and Latin America for distribution here, everyone could benefit. Moringa products are being offered through direct marketing in the United States, but fair trade sale of these items in our health food, nutrition and grocery stores can benefit everyone.

The growers can make a living and the consumers can add healthy and tasty products to their diet.

Upcoming Children's Book to Promote Moringa

Even when community’s enterprise production is for non-food products moringa leaves and seeds are still being produced and can be used to improve the water safety and nutrition of the producers.

To create an awareness of this food resource we are working on a series of articles for food, nutrition and life style magazines. We are also collecting and testing recipes from all over the world. To help create an awareness of moringa, we wrote a soon to be published children’s book, The Miracle of the Moringa Tree. This book was created to be a tool to help create awareness of the value of the moringa tree in controlling malnutrition and providing safe drinking water. This tree can be one of the key solutions to global hunger, but we need to let the people know about it.

The Miracle of the Moringa Tree is a simple children’s story. It has been beautifully illustrated by a Japanese graduate student at the University of New Mexico, Miho Komatsu, with rich colors to attract attention to the vital story line. Amali and her brother Njema live in a drought stricken Kenyan village. Mzee, the elder, tells the people not to give up hope and points toward the distant hills. That night the two children set off to find the food Mzee speaks of. The next day they discover a moringa tree. The tree teaches them how to cook and eat the leaves, pods and seeds. It also teaches them how to purify the dirty water with the moringa seeds. They take bags and baskets of the leaves, pods and seeds back to the village and show everyone how to prepare this new food, then how to plant the seeds so that they could grow enough food that no one in the village will ever feel the pain of hunger again.

It’s our hope that this book can be used in schools around the world. The children will take the story home to their families, the schools can start moringa trees from seed, and health care professionals can expand on the information the children gain from the book and the web sites and networks of moringa growers that already exist.

The book can also be used in the industrialized parts of the world to educate those children and inspire them to be a part of the solution, as we have found children delight in acting out the story for their family and friends, who then also want to get involved. Hunger is a problem we can overcome if we all work together, if we are all willing to be a part of the effort. This can be a part of the educational efforts of faith based communities, the work of NGO’s and governmental agencies around the globe.

The first we heard of moringa was at ECHO in Fort Myers, FL. There we were told the story of a Haitian Nun who was touring their demonstration gardens. She pointed to an ugly tree with long drumsticks of seed pods, and asked if it had any use. The tour guide excitedly told her about the moringa, how every part was able to be used for food security or medicinally, and the seeds also can be pressed for cooking or lamp oil. The young woman fell to her knees with tears in her eyes. The guide asked what was wrong. The young woman told him that she had recently worked in an orphanage in Haiti, where street children were brought, and often as many as five a week would die of starvation. The tragedy of this? They had moringa growing in the compound at the orphanage, and no one knew that it had any use beyond providing shade. The leaf powder is so nutritious, it can be mixed with water or added to cooked rice or a millet porridge so even an infant can be sustained if treated soon enough. But not unless people know how to recognize the tree and how to cultivate it, then how to use its valuable resources.

We need your help, both to get the moringa to those in need and teach them how to use it; and in creating a market in the industrialized world and linking it to those who can grow it as a micro-enterprise and fair trade item. As writers and husband and wife, Hank as a horticultural therapist and Tomi Jill as a former Lutheran pastor, this is a matter of stewardship of a Creator-given miracle. Moringa must be allowed to transcend all barriers. It is not a new discovery; but yet it’s so under utilized. Church World Service created a beautiful video around the turn of the century, declaring it to be the Tree of the Millennium–but relatively few people world-wide are aware of its existence. Would you be interested in developing both fair trade production and a consumer demand for this versatile, renewable, diverse, eco-friendly resource?

Moringa can make a huge difference, and so can you. You are invited to help develop an awareness of this plant’s potential, and how to use the various parts of the moringa tree, including recipes. We welcome your thoughts, ideas and suggestions.  You may contact us via email at or

(The authors are Bread for the World members from Rio Rancho, N.M.,, who support the use of gardening--and the morning tree--to combat hunger).

1 comment:

AGF India Private Ltd said...

Nice Moringa article. We have quality and certified moringa seeds available