By Fredrique Achieng’
With studies showing that many parts of Kenya experience a spike in food shortages and hunger off-season, despite ample food at harvest time, the moringa tree is offering all-year-round crops, super-food nutrition, and extra earnings for farmers in Kilifi.
The moringa, which produces edible fresh and dried leaves, seeds, bark, flowers, as well as essential oils, is delivering financial security in homesteads, as well as solving security problems for Kilifi farmers, said Papu Haroon, Managing Director of Moringa Estates (KME) Limited.
“The moringa drought-resistant tree, native to India and Africa can grow in lowland areas of about 500m-2000m above sea levels. This makes it easy to flourish in areas such as Kilifi, Turkana and other dry parts of the country, provided the area gets enough rainfall of about 800mm annually,” said Haroon.
The moringa matures after nine months with its leaves harvested from 6 to 8 weeks after planting at intervals of two to three times a year. For many farmers, the addition of a single tree can add all-year food for the family, but for some farmers, the moringa is providing such a continuous flow of income and better returns than other crops, that they have converted to its production across their land.
Before venturing into moringa farming, Dzondere Kazungu would get Sh1,500 to Sh2,000 a month from growing pigeon peas, beans, and maize on her six-acre piece of land. She now earns Sh6,400 to Sh10,000 per month after switching to moringa farming.
With 20,000 trees, she harvests around 20,000kg of leaves and 800 pods a year, and has also diversified into powdered leaves and dried seeds.
“All the products of the tree are edible and can be used for different purposes, like medical and beauty. 100g of moringa leaves powder cost Sh395, and a kilogram of moringa seeds cost Sh1,000, according to the current market rates. This has helped me,” said Kazungu.
The crop has been termed as a nutritional gem, as its leaves have 25 times more iron than spinach, 17 times more calcium than milk, 15 times more potassium than bananas, and nine times more protein than yogurt, making it a suitable tree for farmers in dry areas to grow.
Currently, around 1.3m people are facing a food crisis in Kenya, according to a 2020 report by USAID, but this number could be reduced significantly through the addition of several moringa trees.
“Growing of this medical gem is like a cure-all for farmers. This is because they will not just consume the products and get health benefits, but also sell the leaves and its by-products such as oil, juice, and powder, earning returns to take care of their families,” said Michael Meso a Moringa tree expert at KEFRI.
KEFRI sells certified seed and seedlings at Sh1500 per kilogram.
To contact KEFRI 0724259781 or Michael Meso on 0728755919 to contact KME +254 721 388401/ firstname.lastname@example.org