The “miracle tree”: from India to the Sahel

by Pablo Elorriaga

 

The moringa tree, a plant which is original from India, is experiencing a boom in the countries of the Sahel region. Also known as “the miracle tree”, all parts of the plant can be used for different health and nutrition purposes. Its rapid growth and its capability to adapt itself to harsh and dry environments, makes it an ideal culture for the sandy lands of Northern Senegal.

The NGO Alianza por la Soidaridad, through its program “Reinforcement of livelihoods through a pilot project to promote local production, the introduction of high nutritional-quality food and respect for the environment in school canteens”, has been distributing moringa-tree seeds among the beneficiary schools of the project, since 2016.

All parts of the moringa are profitable: seeds, leaves and roots. Its nutritional properties go as far as having more vitamins than carrots and oranges, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach and more potassium than bananas.

Its added nutritional value is undeniable, but not only does it serve as a perfect enrichening complement to traditional dishes… it also helps combatting health disorders and illnesses, such as diabetes, diarrhea, anemia, asthma or high blood pressure.

In order to assure the right way to collect the moringa leaves and the good transformation and conservation techniques, the local staff from Alianza por la Solidaridad has gone on a training tour, covering 15 schools, spreading the message and encouraging the audience to share the acquired knowledge with the rest of the community. It is another step in the process of fostering the ownership of the growth of the “miracle tree” by the beneficiary population.

Within the framework of working together towards the durability of the school canteens, many moringa plants are now growing in school orchards, and most of the times, it is the children themselves who take care of the newly arrived tree. Thus, there is a double outcome of sensitizing students at the same time they are getting a supplementary diet in their everyday menus, when the powder from the moringa leaves is added.