Oct 13 2009

The miracle tree

By Joanna Sabally, CFCA project specialist for the Africa region

Moringa leavesI was a Peace Corps volunteer in a rural community in the Gambia, West Africa from 2003-2005. I had an opportunity to learn more about moringa oliefeira, also known as the ìMiracle Tree.î As part of my training, I learned about the nutritional benefits and uses of moringa, which was already widespread in the area. Moringa trees are small but mighty; they have an extremely high content of several vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, vitamin C. It also has high protein content.

Organizations in the region were promoting its use to combat malnutrition in pregnant women and young children. Generally, families in my community used the moringa plant to make leaf sauce, but there are many other uses to the plant as well. I promoted the more intensive use of moringa leaves as a healthy supplement to food, and encouraged women not to dump water drained from moringa sauces, but to drink it as a tea instead.

I grew the moringa tree intensively in my backyard and dried its leaves in the shade, so as not to lose nutrients. I would pound the leaves with a mortar and pestle and sifted them to make moringa powder. Although the moringa leaf has a somewhat strong smell and flavor, a few tablespoons of the powder can be blended into any sauce as a nutrition supplement without impacting the flavor too much. I ate the powder frequently myself, and worked with each family in the village to sensitize them about all the benefits of the plant. Adding about four tablespoons a day to a child or pregnant motherís daily food intake can make a dramatic difference in their health.

Moringa seeds can also be used to purify water, the seed pods can be eaten, and the bark and roots have medicinal uses, although parts of the roots are slightly poisonous. It does truly seem to be a ìmiracle tree.î

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Oct 12 2009

Moringa trees in the Philippines

Oct. 16 is World Food Day, created in 1979 to increase awareness of the global food problem. In light of this event, we will be doing our part to raise awareness of simple, natural ways to combat malnutrition and hunger. Because CFCA spends more money on nutrition-related benefits than any other, our project staff and families are very creative when it comes to sustainable options. For example, in a recent report from the Philippines, we learned that CFCA families plant moringa trees. Not only is this tree extremely nutritious, but itís drought-resistant AND most of the tree can be used. Although this is the first time weíve heard of this tree, our projects are very familiar with its benefits. This week, you will hear how several projects incorporate this ìmiracleî tree into the CFCA program.

Llyod climbs the moringa tree to harvest the tiny leaves.
Llyod harvests the tiny moringa leaves.

Q&A with Malou Navio, Antipolo, Philippines, project coordinator

1. You said in the Clean and Green report that CFCA families plant moringa trees. How do they use the trees?
The moringa tree is a popular, indigenous herb to us and to people in the communities. Its matured bark is scraped to get a teaspoonful of shavings to mix with a cup of hot or cold water to make a tea known to cleanse the urinary tract. It can also be used as an antiseptic.

The young branch can also be used as plaster liniment. We start with a six-inch cutting, then make it flat, add a little oil, then heat it. When it warms to a tolerable temperature, put on the painful area to relieve the pain.

Moringa seeds can be used as water purifier. Just pound the seeds then place them in the water jug or jar.

2. How do you care for the moringa trees?
Just water the moringa tree during dry season. In rainy season, elevate the soil around the trees. Moringa will die if water sits for long around its roots. Pruning is also helpful to sprout more branches.

3. If the leaves are used for food, how do you prepare moringa? How do you eat it?
We thresh the leaves from its stem. It can be incorporated almost in all viands — soups, noodles, sweets, snacks, burgers and juice. It is prepared just like an ordinary cabbage or spinach.

4. Can you harvest the tree at any time of the year or only certain seasons?
Moringa can be harvested at any time of the year when there are enough leaves. For a large tree, we can harvest twice weekly.

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