Moringa, the magical herb, has seven times the vitamin C of oranges, four times the potassium of bananas, four times the fibre of oats, 14 times of the calcium of milk, nine times the iron of Spinach, two times the Vitamin A of carrots, and two times the protein of yogurt.
So what is Moringa, Ethiopia’s magical herb, exactly?
Moringa is identified as a, “multipurpose versatile plant with enormous economic, nutritional, health and biofuel potentials.” The World Health Organisation (WHO) uses it to treat nourished infants and lactating mothers, it is currently being sold as supplements in western countries and historically, it is said to have been used by the ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians for the treatment and prevention of health ailments, cosmetic and beauty purposes.
Experts at The Advanced Biofuel Centre (ABC) in India, the largest producer of mMoringa, continuously examine and trial the plant for a wide range of purposes ranging from agricultural to medicinal to energy. ABC have recently announced the third Global Moringa Meet will be held from the 21st to the 22nd of November 2015 in Jaipur, India.
ABC Scientist M Sharma says that the experience, expertise, and views of various Moringa scientists and experts about Moringa and its use for agriculture development for the purposes of reducing hunger and poverty shall be discussed and deliberated.
“Nutrient-rich Moringa foods could play an important role in efforts to provide healthy diets for people around the world. Moringa could help ensure food security for people who are currently malnourished – a number that continues to increase despite international efforts,” Sharma said.
Despite its medicinal purposes still being researched, Moringa is set to be the next big thing in Ethiopia.
The Reporter recently covered a story about Aberash Alemu, aka Mother Moringa, a 60-year-old woman who is famous for her Moringa-related dishes. Known as Shiferaw or Aleko in Ethiopia, Moringa is the main ingredient of the local delicacy, broth called Haleko. If there’s one place to eat it Haleko, it’s at Mother Moringa’s diner.
A regular to Mother Moringa’s Gebre Gebremariam, a self-employed man in his early fifties, has been living in Karat for the past ten years. He enjoys conversation with visitors and those en route to Omo Valley who stop for lunch or a quick breakfast, where he takes the opportunity to recommend the diner.
“Most foreigners prefer to eat the cooked broth here, but local visitors are more interested to buy the packed product,” Gebre explains. He earns a commission for alluring customers to Mother Moringa’s diner.
Mother Moringa is not only about the Haleko broth, also offering the magic herb in powder and dry-leaf forms, a traded commodity that’s steadily increasing in popularity.
Ethiopia started research on Moringa trees 20-years-ago and have been the most successful in the past five years due to support, special training and promotion, according to the Director of the Forestry Research at the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) Woubalem Tadesse (PhD).
“The support has played a pivotal role in increasing the awareness of the public about Moringa. The change also applies to the production of Moringa, which was limited to the Southern Region. Production is expanding to other regions of the country, contributing to greater consumption.” Tadesse told reporters at Addis Fortune.
Mars Moringa is one of those companies that has taken up the processing and marketing of Moringa. Founder and owner Awel Sheta, collects and processes his product in Konso, one of the major growers of the product in Ethiopia.
In his early days, Awel used to buy a bundle of moringa from the farmers for just 10 cents and relied on family labour to process three kilos of Moringa. Now the price has reached five Birr and Mars Moringa has employed 16 workers and produces over 500kgs of packed Moringa.
“Our production has increased exponentially, because of the increasing demand,” Awel said.
Marse Moringa has plans to export its product to different destinations in the near future.
According to Addis Fortune there are currently more than 25 moringa shops in Addis Ababa, with more suppliers continuously cropping up.