*by Judith Santiago
September 17, 2008—It's lunchtime at a Hope for the Nations (HFTN) feeding center in Ganta, Liberia. A healthy, four year-old boy sits with other children in his age group to enjoy his afternoon meal. On the menu is porridge mixed with rice, honey and Moringa. He sits there quietly, unmoved by the other children's activities and he doesn't let go of his spoon—so as to not miss one bite. His name is Survivor Kennedy and he is a true testament to his name.
Looking at Survivor, one would never know that he arrived at HFTN at the point of death. He arrived with swollen legs, a swollen belly, reddish hair, thinning skin and he was extremely underweight—all signs of severe malnutrition. His father brought him to the center because he was unable to financially care for his son and his first wife did not want him. When Survivor's father remarried, his second wife also rejected him. Abandoned by both mothers and father, HFTN, a non-profit organization that operates orphanages and development centers worldwide, became his guardians—a Moringa-rich diet would be an important part of saving his life.
Moringa SA&D Production
Since 2001, The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has been ensuring best practices in Moringa production and use through its Sustainable Agriculture & Development Program (SA&D). The training program encourages farmers to pass on what they have learned to other farmers in the community and has helped several people throughout Africa experience better health. The growing and cultivation of Moringa is a special focus of UMCOR's SA&D program—as it is a nutritious supplement for those who do not have adequate food supplies. In addition, farmers looking to make additional income can look to Moringa as it is a low cost investment that produces excellent yields.
Moringa is Helping to Reverse Malnutrition
Mary-Ann Newah, 46, an UMCOR SA&D graduate farmer and trainer, who also supervises many children at HFTN, helped introduce Moringa and beekeeping to the center. Now, HFTN is a home to 650 Moringa trees and seven beehives on its 25-acre farm. With Moringa in its backyard, HFTN saves money on buying other costly, high-protein food because Moringa has the vitamins and nutrients the children need to stay healthy. Its leaves are an excellent source of vitamins A, C, iron, calcium, potassium, protein, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. The leaves are plucked from the tree, washed, dried and crushed into a powder, then added to the children's meals which include other locally-grown produce. Moringa is the added ingredient, that many in West Africa believe is helping to reverse malnutrition.
"It is true that Moringa is capable of wiping malnutrition from the face of the earth, "said Ruth N. Zansi, national director of programs for HFTN in Liberia. "You will see a child come in with swollen feet and the skin is about to burst open—when that child is fed with one table spoonful of Moringa powder, three times a day in his meal, that child starts to recover in seven days," continued Zansi. She also claims that by the second week, the child will start to smile and talk a lot.
Survivor gained substantial weight in just two short months. His diet included other nutrient-rich grains and vegetables that aided his weight gain, but many believe that Moringa accelerates the health process. Today, Survivor is just that—a survivor."It is a miracle!" said Zansi.
How You Can Help
Moringa is fast becoming a household name throughout Africa and is helping to bring quality health and nutrition to many of Africa's undernourished population. Its wide popularity is partly due to UMCOR's SA&D introduction and training of Moringa and through the communities who are testifying to its healing and income-generating benefits.
World Food Day is October 16. Support the work of UMCOR's SA&D training programs that introduce new farming techniques to help farmers growing healthier, more sustainable crops to feed themselves and their families. Send your gifts to UMCOR's Sustainable Agriculture & Development (SA&D) Program, UMCOR Advance, # 982188.
*Santiago is a Program Coordinator for UMCOR Communications