This is how Sister Levina describes Moringa Oleifera, a medicinal tree being grown by the ‘Medical Missionaries of Mary’ at their training centre in the Maasai village of Ngaremtoni. Moringa is nutritionally rich, drought resistant and extremely fast-growing, and can be harvested as little as 5 months after being planted. Nutritionally, the plant is at its optimum when the leaves are dried into a powder, which can be added to food or drinks. Gram for gram, Moringa leaf powder contains 10 times the vitamin A content of carrots, 9 times the protein content of yoghurt, 17 times the calcium content of milk, and 25 times the iron content of spinach. Indeed, research in Senegal has found that using Moringa powder reduces levels of anaemia in pregnant women, improves birth weights and development in babies and produces better quality breastmilk.
It is just over a year since I returned from field work in Arusha with an NGO called ‘Women in Action for Development (WIA).’ WIA’s mission is to empower women, young people and children in order to create a community dedicated to change and sustainable development. Their biggest vulnerable target group are people living with HIV/AIDS. Many of the people supported rely on food donations for their nutrition. As a dietician, my role was to try and improve the nutritional intake of the families and orphans WIA supports.
5 months after my arrival, we achieved the aim of buying land, to allow WIA to grow nutritionally beneficial foods. WIA’s current vision is to make leaf powder to distribute to the people they support, and also to distribute seeds and education to those who can grow more trees.
I feel it is an injustice that the majority of Tanzanians don’t know about this wonderful tree growing on their doorstep. Everyone should use it! I would be happy to get involved with any projects or research to do with this miracle tree!