The Role of UMCOR’s Sustainable Agriculture and Development Program in promoting the “miracle tree.” – Moringa in Sierra Leone – Flowing from Work in Liberia – January 2011 — Mozart Adevu
Happy and Prosperous New Year!
I bring you New Year greetings from my family, friends and communities in Africa, especially those you have impacted over the last years. We thank you for your support and giving over the last years. I hope my stories inspire you and give you great testimonies of how your support has helped changed lives in Africa.
“Imagine a tree in your backyard that will meet all your nutritional needs, take care of you medicinally, and purify your water for you. This tree actually exists. For centuries, the natives of northern India and many parts of Africa have known of the many benefits of Moringa oleifera. Its uses are as unique as the names it is known by, such as clarifier tree, horseradish tree and drumstick tree (referring to the large drumstick shaped pods) and in East and West Africa it is called “mother’s best friend”. Virtually every part of the tree can be used. Native only to the foothills of the Himalayas, it is now widely cultivated in Africa, Central and South America, Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia and the Philippines. This tree, though little known in the Western world, is nutritional dynamite. There are literally hundreds of uses for this tree”.
This was my opening statement to the official Launch of Moringa in Sierra Leone to which I was invited as a Guest Speaker on Wednesday, October 6, 2010 at the Conference Room of the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone (CCSL) in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Why the Launch in Sierra Leone?
This Conference has been necessitated by the growing worldwide knowledge and recognition of the Moringa plant as a nutrition supplement of choice. UMCOR’s Sustainable Agriculture & Development Program (UMCOR-SA&D) has played a pioneering role in Africa in the promotion of Moringa since 2001 and the impact on Ghana and Liberia had already become very obvious to the people of Sierra Leone so they desired to emulate the strides and progress made especially in Ghana on the use of Moringa and therefore chose a National Conference as a means to ensure that some conscientious and coordinated action is taken also in Sierra Leone to make such impact as has been achieved in Ghana. This national Conference was organized as a Launch of Moringa in Sierra Leone and the general public and key Institutions such as the departments of Agriculture and Health of Government of Sierra Leone participated in the Launch
Mozart Adevu, making a presentation at the Moringa Launch in Sierra Leone
Moringa was first introduced officially into Sierra Leone for use as a food supplement in 2001 by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). As such, when I visited Sierra Leone for the very first time in February, 2001, I brought some quality seeds of Moringa with me and passed these on to the Development staff of the United Methodist Church, Sierra Leone and the Methodist Church Sierra Leone.
Thereafter, in 2003, UMCOR-SA&D conducted formal training of farmers in the Bo Region of Sierra Leone-Tikonko, Sumbuya, Kakpema, Gelehun and some other locations were the beneficiary communities. Over 150 Farmers were introduced to the cultivation and use of Moringa as a food supplement. Some seeds were passed on to the farmers who received training and they planted these out and also taught several other farmers how to use the leaves of the plant. UMCOR conducted follow up for about 3 years after the training and we are pleased now at the efforts of CCSL in coordinating efforts at promoting the use of this great gift of God for Africa. The Presbyterian Church, USA and Agricultural Missions, Inc, USA in consultation with UMCOR has continued the effort at promoting Moringa in Sierra Leone, and that culminated in the event of the Launch.
INVOLVEMENT OF THE STATE OF SIERRA LEONE.
The Honourable Minister of Health of Sierra Leone, Mr. Mohammed Daudis Koroma, was the keynote speaker. He expressed his utmost support to the CCSL and all others in the promotion of the “miracle tree”, Moringa. He declared an open door policy of his Ministry to the issues of Moringa and praised the efforts of UMCOR “for introducing such wonderful plant into Sierra Leone”. He said his office will support any action plan that might emanate from the Launch in promoting Moringa.
The Bishop of the United Methodist Church, Rev. John Yambasu, chaired the inaugural event and also similarly praised the efforts of UMCOR and all other partners and farmers involved in the promotion of the plant. He pledged his Churches’ commitment to promote Moringa at all levels and also praised the role I have played in promoting Moringa in Ghana to the extent that Moringa is currently a household word and that the tree could be found in virtually every village, town and city in Ghana. Bishop Yambasu also requested participants at the Launch to take issues of Moringa seriously in Sierra Leone and attempt to emulate the achievements so far in Ghana, where Moringa products are currently sold in supermarkets and health shops
Participants at Moringa Launch in Sierra Leone buying Moringa products
There were about 150 farmers, 10 journalists from different media houses in Sierra Leone and also the Television crew of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) present to provide coverage to the Launch. The event was broadcast on the nationwide network by the SLBC on the main evening news and some portion of my presentation was captured in the broadcast. There were two immediate outcomes of this broadcast. Several persons called the CCSL the next day to enquire about Moringa and its products and also for additional information on the plant and for seeds. The second outcome was that I was invited the next morning to the widely watched one-hour “morning show” of the SLBC. I used the opportunity to further explain the nutritional benefits and also responded to some questions bordering on the medicinal uses of Moringa. I explained the nutritional composition of the leaves of Moringa. The following are excerpts of my presentation on the morning show:
“Nutritional analyses of Moringa show that the leaves are very high in protein and contain all of the essential amino acids, including two amino acids that are especially important for children’s diet. This is most uncommon in a plant food.
Moringa leaves are also packed with essential vitamins and minerals-especially vitamins A and C. Delivering such powerful nutrition, these leaves could prevent the scourge of malnutrition and related diseases.
Some people and writers have described the availability of Moringa to a family for use as synonymous with “Growing Multivitamins at ones doorstep” WHY this description? Moringa contains Vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, Vit C, Calcium, Chromium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Protein and Zinc.
Rare for a plant source, Moringa leaves contain ALL the essential Amino Acids.
Moringa tree leaves are the richest single natural sources of Vitamins and Minerals on the face of the Earth”.
I also used the opportunity to explain how Moringa works on building the immune system through its antioxidant and phytonutrient properties. The following are excerpts:
“Moringa has approximately 46 antioxidants and is one of the most powerful sources of natural anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants supply the free atoms needed by the human body and mitigate the effect of free radicals. Moringa leaves are rich in Flavonoids, a class of anti-oxidants.
Antioxidants play a major role in controlling the symptoms of aging process and improve the cardiovascular health. Additionally, Vitamin C & Vitamin E, present in Moringa, also function as anti-oxidants. Researches confirm that the anti-oxidants deliver the desired result, if only taken with the combination of other essential vitamin and minerals, which makes health enthusiast to seek after Moringa.
Moringa leaves and fruits are loaded with Phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are certain organic components of plants, and these components are thought to promote human health. The phytonutrients present in Moringa include, Alpha-carotene, Beta-Carotene, Beta-cryptoxanthin, Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Chlorophyll. Phytonutrients flushes toxins from the body, purifies the liver, helps to strengthen the immune system, helps in rebuilding the red blood cells and the important of all, Moringa Phytonutrients rejuvenate the body at the cellular level”.
The highlight of the Launch was the exhibition of Moringa products. Several products exhibited by farmers from Sierra Leone were mainly fresh Moringa parts such as leaves, flowers, roots etc. However, Mrs. Esther Rashid and Salamatu Mustapha, who were first trained by UMCOR in 2003 and who subsequently participated in the UMCOR-SA&D Training of Trainers event held in Ghana in September 2006 exhibited the only processed products of Moringa dried leaves and Moringa leaf powder. I however brought along with me to the Launch over 50lbs of processed products of Moringa from Ghana. These were products from members of the Moringa Association of Ghana, who had established companies involved in producing and marketing of Moringa products. Products from the Methodist Church of Ghana were also available for the exhibition and sale. All the products from Ghana were purchased within 1-week and I have since sent supplies back to the CCSL since there has been a great demand from the public of Sierra Leone.
Mr. Hassan Bangura of the CCSL, was responsible for organizing the Launch. He has requested for regular supply of products from Ghana to sustain the high demand for Moringa products until such a time that local production and processing can be sustained in Sierra Leone. Just recently, Mr. Harold Tengbe, an UMCOR trained trainer in Sierra Leone has also requested me for supplies of Moringa products from Ghana for marketing in Sierra Leone. Both have indicated that as a result of the Launch of Moringa there has been a great demand for Moringa products.
The Launch has therefore not only created awareness on the benefits of Moringa but has also created a market avenue for producers in Ghana, especially for those registered with the Moringa Association of Ghana.
UMCOR’s SA&D work has not therefore only brought increased food security to communities but has also resulted in creating internal and external trade relationships between countries especially in West Africa.
The use of Moringa is increasing astronomically in Africa and this is good for the continent as Moringa will provide families with cheap sources of nutrients resulting in healthy families and societies.
Just like the other innovations of Moringa, Soy, Beekeeping etc that the program introduced to the countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo etc, the introduction of solar dryers provides great promise in strengthening rural communities and revealing God’s presence in mission. Do please keep me in your prayers especially for God’s protection, wisdom and good health.
Ed Galle and Dick Fulmer, the two CTI volunteers who travelled with me last year to Liberia to help build solar dryers are travelling again with me at the end of February to Liberia and Sierra Leone. They will help construct one more solar dryer in Liberia and two in Sierra Leone. The results from last year’s trial have been very good. Communities are using the dryers effectively and have requested for further support in building some more.
My family is doing pretty well. My wife was involved in some training programs in nutrition last November. She trained over 60 women in the processing of Moringa and soybean and these women have begun utilizing these in the family diets and hope to make products for sale.
Makafui, has completed the BSc. Architectural program in the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi and will complete the one-year National Service before going back for the postgraduate program
Toni and Selma are doing very well in school. Toni is in the final year of the 4-year program of the Senior High School and Selma is in 2nd term of the 3rd year. Selma was top of her class in the previous term and hopes to maintain that momentum to the final year in 2012.
Thank you for your continued support through prayer and giving.
God richly bless you, your families and congregations.
In His Service,