Four years after a devastating earthquake and two years after debilitating hurricanes, Haiti still struggles to feed its people. The moringa, or “miracle” tree, could be the answer to this poverty stricken nation’s nutritional challenges.
Moringa Oleifera is known as the drum stick tree in India and is used all across Asia and Africa. Every part of the plant has a function, from the flowers used for medicinal tea, to the beans that contain oil used in a number of cosmetic applications. The leaves, which have the highest nutritional value, contain more vitamins than spinach, cabbage, or any other leafy vegetable and can be eaten raw, sautéed with oil and garlic, or added to rice and stews.
Locally known as doliv or benzoliv, moringa olifeira is rich in vitamins A, B, C, D and E, contains minerals, and has calcium, potassium and protein. The plant is estimated to contain twice the protein and calcium content of milk, several times the potassium of bananas, more iron than spinach, four times the amount of vitamin A in carrots and several times the vitamin C of oranges. The tree’s nuts can be grilled and eaten like chocolate, while powdered moringa leaves are often given to people with HIV and AIDS. In Senegal and Mali, moringa is used to combat rickets.
Moringa trees could also provide shade for coffee plantations. Coffee provides the main source of income for more than 100,000 farmers while crucially sustaining much of the remaining tree cover – less than 1.5% of land – according to the Clinton Foundation, which is redeveloping the role of coffee in Haiti’s economy.
The plant can also provide animal feed, vital for rearing goats and chickens, increasing milk production, and for fish farming,
“It is hard to rein in the use of superlatives when describing the benefits of the Moringa Oleifera tree, long known to rural Haitians for its highly nutritious leaves eaten raw or added to soup,” said Hugh Locke, president of the Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA), when announcing a commercial moringa production study in Haiti recently. The SFA is key to a sustainable production of moringa and the study, made possible with support from the Embassy of the Netherlands in the Dominican Republic, is focused primarily on two areas — the current market for moringa products and farming requirements. The study hopes to explore the potential of local production of dried moringa leaves to be used as a nutritional supplement and of oil extracted from moringa seeds for use in the cosmetics industry. The research is being conducted with an emphasis on the potential for small-scale farmers to be involved in both growing and processing the tree on a commercial scale.
The study is being conducted over a three-month period and will result in a report presenting findings and recommendations to be published before the end of the year. A variety of international companies have already expressed interest in sourcing moringa from Haiti.
For more information, check out the SFA’s website.