Moringa is an amazing, fast growing, drought resistant local tree, with leaves that contain an impressive range of nutrients, delicious served as a green vegetable or salad leaves. However, in this poorly nourished society, they’re rarely eaten because the trees are regularly destroyed by grazing livestock, traditionally wandering free.
So we planned a Moringa Groves Project, to develop the effective growth of this valuable local resource, providing high-grade nutritional benefit to hundreds in the impoverished rural areas. Woodlots of 100 trees were planned in 3 villages to begin with, trialling the use of bamboo modular fence panels made with traditional skills from local materials, to protect the young trees
Village meetings were held to introduce the plan, then voluntary committees formed to manage the groves’ implementation and care. Once approved, our staff assessed the donated land for suitability, then trained in producing compost—an essential element in the planting of the groves. By the October, all 3 groups had prepared 2 compost pits, leaving the contents to mature, so they’d be ready to plant out the tree seedlings in the new year. In the meantime our agri staff were busy sowing moringa seeds, and glycidia which would form a permanent living fence around each grove, when the bamboo panels were removed after a couple of years.
In January, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, socially-distanced training was given to all volunteers, then each group began to prep its grove, helped, encouraged & supervised by our agri-staff. Land was cleared, planting areas measured and marked, tree pits dug and filled with compost, tree seedlings circulated and planted interspersed with glycidia a green manure, using agroforestry techniques. Finally, the fence was erected around each site, and fitted with a robust padlocked gate.
A spot of weeding, and by March the saplings had grown to about 1m tall, gaps were filled with fresh plants, & regularly monitored.
By mid-May, the trees had grown enough to begin to remove the first batch of leaves to promote bushier growth. This initial mini-harvest provided the vegetable content for about 60 meals—the yield would quickly increase as the trees matured. The trees were pruned to about 1.5m high, enabling easy harvesting of leaves, with the off-cuts planted elsewhere to increase the local tree stock, providing more shade, soil stability, & further nutrition.
By Christmas, the trees were mature enough to produce abundant, ongoing leaf harvests, providing nutritional benefits freely to the villages’ most vulnerable folk, for decades to come.
The following year more groves were added to the programme, increasing each to include green veg, and monitored to assess care and commitment to the project. The training is backed up with encouragement, advice, and cooking guidance to preserve nutritional value, along with any upkeep inputs that will benefit the crop.
We are constantly planting more moringa on our own site too. It isn’t practical to give away fresh leaves, so we wash and dry them in the dark, either on covered trays or in solar dehydrators to keep their nutritional integrity, and mill them into a highly nutritious food supplement for the frail. This powder can be added to drinks or food, and enthusiastic anecdotal comments acknowledge health improvement in the young, sick and vulnerable.
Moringa leaves contain vitamins A,B,C,E & K, calcium, protein, potassium, iron, copper, zinc, all 9 essential amino acids and 46 antioxidants.