From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Moringa tree could reduce malnutrition in Africa

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 24 Apr 2000 13:32:09

April 24, 2000	News media contact: Linda Bloom·(212) 870-3803·New York

By United Methodist News Service

An adaptable tree found across West Africa could become a major resource in
fighting hunger and malnutrition and possibly even improve the health of
people with HIV/AIDS.

Lowell Fuglie, who heads the West Africa regional office of Church World
Service (CWS) in Dakar, Senegal, said the Moringa Oleifera tree could be
particularly effective in the Sahel - a near-desertlike region of Africa
between the Sahara and the savannah rain forests - "where malnutrition is
the biggest problem and where Moringa is already adapted to growing."

All parts of the tree are edible and nutritious. The leaves, leaf powder,
pods, seeds, flowers, roots and bark offer an array of protein, calcium,
minerals, iron and several important vitamins. In some countries, such as
Niger, farmers already grow the tree as a cash crop.

Fuglie, who worked as a United Methodist Board of Global Ministries
missionary in the former Zaire during the 1980s, noted that CWS began a
pilot project on the Moringa tree in Senegal during 1997. The relief agency
of the U.S. National Council of Churches, CWS has just completed training in
southwest Senegal and will begin soon in the southeast region. In addition,
120 acres of the tree have been planted this year "just to make sure we have
enough seed," he said.

"It can't be just a single solution to the problem of starvation, but in
terms of improving nutrition, it would be a very valuable tool," he said
about the tree during an April 20 interview. Besides the nutritional
benefits, Moringa's seed kernel powder can be used to purify water.

"This is an indigenous African resource that anyone can use," he pointed
out, adding that after training, a project can be continued easily by

Moringa leaves can be cooked like spinach, used for a sauce and served over
rice or couscous, or easily dried into a powder and stored for long periods.
Young pods can be cooked like green beans. Older pods, seeds, flowers, roots
and bark also are edible and considered tasty.

At the April 13-15 African Health Ministers' HIV/AIDS and Malaria
International Conference in Atlanta, Fuglie presented research gathered from
the CWS project, which has been conducted in collaboration with a Senegalese
partner, AGADA, and local health services.

In the case of HIV/AIDS, the Vitamin A found in Moringa - four times the
amount found in carrots - has the potential of building immune systems and
better sustaining health. Vitamin A also is considered important in building
resistance to malaria, he said.

CWS hopes to spread the project beyond Senegal and plans to host an
international conference on the Moringa tree. "For us to expand, we need
additional (financial) support," Fuglie said.

Results of the CWS study of Moringa's nutritional value and usefulness in
preventing or quickly curing malnutrition are documented in a recently
published book entitled The Miracle Tree. More information is available by
calling the CWS office at (800) 297-1516.

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United Methodist News Service
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