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Moringa Tree Could Reduce Malnutrition in Africa

Posted: April 24, 2000 Click to Visit Global News

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 itself.

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 visiting http://www.moringatrees.org.

See Also

Source: United Methodist News Service.

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