Moringa is a tropical tree believed to have its origin in Agra and Oduh in the northwest region of India, South of the Himalayan mountains and mentioned in the a “shushruta Sanhita” which was written in the beginning of the First Century AD and has evidence that its cultivation in India dates back to many thousand years ago.
It is believed that the Indians knew that the seeds contain edible oil and they used them for medicinal purposes and the common people knew of its value and used it as fodder or vegetable.
The tree which can be found growing naturally at elevations of up to 1000m above sea level does well on hillsides but is more frequently found growing on pasture land or in river basins.
It is a fast growing tree and has been found to grow to 6-7m in one year in areas receiving less than 400mm mean annual rainfall (Odee, 1988).
Today, it is cultivated throughout the middle East and in almost the whole of the tropical belt and was introduced into Eastern Africa from India at the beginning of the 20th century and as a non-cultivated plant, it was known for its resistance to drought and decease.
Because this tree has so many potential uses, the trio of Foid N, Makkar H.P.S. and Becker K. conducted an extensive research programme on it over a period of 10 years with financial assistance from the Austraian government and the University of Hohenheim, Stuggart.
According to them, the Plant possesses many properties which make it of great scientific interest which include high protein contents of the leaves, twigs and stem and oil contents of the seeds. They also identified the presence of growth factors in the leaves and high sugar and starch content of the entire plant.
They equally identified the fact that few parts of the tree contain any toxins that might decrease its potentials as a source of food for animals or humans.
On the Socio-economic aspect, Moringa is one of the most useful and versatile tropical plants. The relative ease with which it propagates through both sexual and asexual means and its low demand for soil nutrients and water after being planted makes its production and management easy and the introduction of Moringa into a farm which has a biodiverse environment can be beneficial to both the owner of the farm and the surrounding ecosystem.
For humans, the young leaves which are edible are commonly coked and eaten like spinach or used to make soups and salads and the young green pods are very tasty and can be boiled and eaten like green beans. The pods are best for human consumption at the stage when they can be broken easily without leaving any visible strings or fibre.
According to a nutritionist expert and Managing Director and Chief Executive of Dilomat Farms Ltd. Chief Moore Chindah, the dry seeds and leaves of Moringa can be ground to a power and used for seasoning and sauces and the roots from young plants can also be dried and ground for use as a hot seasoning base with a flavour similar to that of horse radish.
A tasty hot sauce from the roots can also be prepared by cooking them in vinegar, and the flowers can be eaten after being lightly blanched or raw as a tasty addition to salads. The rasin from the trunk of the tree is also useful for thickening sauces.
For industrial uses of the Moringa oil, it is estimated that the oil content of the de-hulled seed (Kernel) is approximately 42%. The oil can be used as a lubricant for fine machinery such as time pieces because it has little tendency to deteriorate and become racid and sticky and it is also useful as a vegetable cooking oil. The oil is known for its capacity to absorb and retain volatile substances and is therefore valuable in the perfume industry for stabilizing scents.
As a forage plant, the nutritional characteristics of the Moringa tree are excellent so it can easily be used as a fresh forage material for cattle.
The leaves are rich in protein, carotene, iron and ascorbic acid and the pod is rich in amino acid Iysine.
Another important advantage of Moringa is its high production of fresh material per unit area compared to other forage crops. Moringa is especially useful as a forage for cattle both economically and productively, given the problems facing typical cattle breeders. Moringa trees have been used to combat malnutrition especially among infants and nursing mothers.
Three Non Governmental Organisations, NGO, in particular – Trees For life, Church World Service and Educational Concerns for Hunger Organisation have advocated Moringa as “natural nutrient for the Tropics”.
Leaves can be eaten fresh, cooked or stored as dried power for many months without refrigeration and reportedly without loss of nutritional value. Moringa is especially promising as a food source in the tropics because the tree is in full leaf at the end of the dry season when other foods are typically scarce.
The kernels of Moringa can be crushed and its water extract used for purification of water and the oil extract can be used for human consumption.
In the African context, Moringa is a very simple and readily available tool to help prevent malnutrition.
Since the Moringa tree is dought resistant and fast growing and present in nearly all tropical countries, the cultivation of the plant for its various uses and needs as food and medicine for local use, cannot be over stressed.
As earlier stated, its edible leaves are already an occasional food source in West Africa regions and appear at the end of the dry season.
Moringa is probably the most useful plant in the entire world as every part of the plant can be used as food. While the seed is eaten like a peanut in some climes, the thickened root is used as a substitute for horse radush.
The leaves are ground and used for scrubbing utensils and for cleaning walls and its seeds Yeil about 40% of non-drying oil known as Ben oil used in the arts among other uses.
The oil is clear, sweet and odourless and useful in the manufacture of perfumes and hairdressing, and in Africa, Moringa is planted as a living fence and its bark can serve as a platform for tanning.
The trees are also planted on graves in Africa to keep wild animals especially hynas away and the branches they say serve as charms against withcraft.
Moringa’s medical uses are many. The flowers, leaves, seeds and roots are used as folk remedies for tumours and the leaves are applied as a poultice to sores and rubbed on the temples for headache.
A large number of reports on the nutritional qualities of Moringa now exist in both the scientific and popular literature. They say Moringa leaves contain more vitamin A than Carrots, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, more vitamic C than oranges and more potassium than bananas and that the protein quality of Moringa leaves rivals that of milk and eggs.
The oral histories recorded by Lowell Fyglie in Senegal and throughout West Africa who reports countless instances of live saving nutritional rescue are attributed to Moringa.
Infact the nutitional properties of Moringa are now so well known that there seems to be little doubt of the substantial health benefit to be realised by the Consumption of Moringa leaf powder in situations where starvation was imminent.
Nonetheless, the outcomes of well controlled and well documented clinical studies are still clearly of great value.
In many cultures throughout the tropics, differentiation between food and medicinal uses of plants eg bark, fruit, leaves, nuts, seeds, tubers, roots and flowers are very difficult since plant uses span both categories and this is deeply ingrained in the traditions and the fabric of the Community .
Known as Ikwe Oyibo in Ibo, Ewe-ile in Yoruba and Gawara in Fulani and Zogall in Hausa languages, it could be said without any doubt that from the pure Moringa, we can get very good benefits for the health which are very much reported in studies of the leaf.
It is the organic, natural, endurance and energy supplement of health. In other words, it is the ultimate thing and the most beneficial and purest part of the plant is the powdered Moringa leaf.
According to the annals of the ayurveda, India’s old tradition of medicines, the leaves of Moringa tree could treat at least 300 diseases.
They say the leaf has no proven bad side effects as it is absolutely safe and organic and because of its tolerant properties, it has been given to malnourished little babies in Africa.
Also, athletes all over the world boost their performance abilities by taking huge quantities of the leaf to keep them fit both mentally and physically. It is their secret weapon, even senior citizens who are losing their sharpness of mind, the Moringa tree leaf could be a great help and the power knows no age group.
“Unfortunately, the Moringa leaf is comparatively an unheard name in spite of the fact that it has been found mentioned more than two thousand years before, and the World Health Organisation has been observing and utilising the tree for more than forty years now as a cheap health supplement in the poverty stricken countries the world over”.
“There is a reason behind this. The selling of all kinds of health supplements, minerals and vitamins is a lucrative business. No big company would ever take the risk of introducing a name that could potentially harm and lower the sale of all other nutritional items”.
The same hold water for the pharmaceutical countries too. These huge companies would prefer to keep the general public in the dark about the benefits of the Moringa leaf to make big bucks for their own.
The benefits of the Moringa leaf are voluminous such as increase in the natural defences of the body, provision of nourishment to the eyes and brain, promotes metabolism with bio-available ingredients, promotes natural serum cholesterol, lowers the appearance of wrinkles and fineness.
It also promotes the normal functioning of the liver and kidneys, beautifies the skin, promotes digestion and acts as an antioxidant and takes care of the immune system of the body.
“Today, large scale cultivation and use of the Moringa plant has been intensified and initiated in Malawi, Kenya, India, Tanzania and Nicaragua among others, therefore it has become persistently expedient for the authorities in Nigeria to toe the line of these progressives in order to tap the full benefits associated with the use of the Moringa tree”.
No doubt, the Hon. Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina could not be said to be a stranger on the subject of the Moringa tree which of course has an international status.
To this end, therefore, it is expected that the federal government put machinery in place to see to the large scale cultivation of the Moringa tree not only at the national level but the process should be replicated in all the states of the federation.
Infact to underscore the importance of the Moringa tree, to the economic as well as the social aspect of a nation’s life, India which is the largest producer of Moringa with an annual production of 1.1 to 1.3 million tones of tender fruit from an area of 380Km2 was doing so mainly on the aim of reducing poverty and malnutrition through imposed production and consumption of vegetables.
For Nigeria, this is the time to key into harnessing the full potentials of the almighty Moringa Tree.
IITA Develops New Potato Variety
Empowering, Novel, Agri-Business Led, Employment, Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (ENABLE TAAT) has recently developed Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) species to tackle malnutrition and reduce diabetes in Africa.
The ENABLE TAAT Field Trainer of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Mr Murtalab Adedamola, made this known in Ibadan yesterday.
He said that the development of the potato species was one of the plans of IITA, aimed at combating malnutrition and attaining food security in Africa. Adedamola said that OFSP was different from the Irish potato, adding that it contained a lot of water, Vitamin A, high carotene and low level of sugar. “It has two varieties – King J and Mothers’ Delight, and it can be used for baking cake, snacks and bread.
“It is stress-free, its cultivation cycle is within three months; it is not a tuber but a root and it does not go deep into the soil like cassava.
“The growth continues even after harvesting, it is good for children and diabetic patients because of its low level of sugar. Farmers can plant a hectare with just 500kg. vines of OFSP, which multiplies.
“They should cut the vines together, bundle them together, weigh them and then plant them. Farmers can plant at a depth of 20 or 25 cm and at an angle of 45 degrees because the spacing can determine the yield,” he said. Adedamola advised farmers to always apply MPK fertiliser to the crop after two weeks of planting, as the exercise would go a long way to improve the yield if the crop had access to water. The field trainer said that the maintenance of an OFSP farm would not require much weeding, adding that the soil would crack while its flowers would shoot out to signal the appropriate time for harvesting. He, however, warned that the King J variety of OFSP was better grown in the northern parts of the country, while the cultivation of the Mothers’ Delight type would thrive in the South.
“In Cameroon, we have four varieties of OFSP and in Cote d’Ivoire, there are six varieties. Farmers are planting it already but the produce lacks market because people are not aware of its numerous benefits. “When people learn about its benefits, they will start patronising the farmers well; we will definitely have more varieties of it in Nigeria because it is a crop that can transform the livelihood of potato farmers perfectly,’’ he added.
Assembly Approves N1.5bn Agric Loan
The Niger State House of Assembly has passed a resolution granting approval to the state government to access a N1.5bn facility for the implementation of the Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS).
The House passed the resolution yesterday following the presentation of the report of Joint Committees on Finance and Agriculture.
Presenting the report, Chairman of the Joint Committee, Alhaji Abdullahi Mammagi, said it interfaced with relevant stakeholders to ascertain the justification for the request made.
Mammagi noted that the facility was being offered at an interest rate of nine per cent per annum and 60 months repayment period by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“From the interface held, the committee found that the Federal Government had offered a window of facility to states to support implementation of AADS in states.
“The CBN, through Zenith Bank has offered to provide the of N1.5bn. The facility is offered for a period of 60 months, at an interest rate of nine per cent per annum.
“This is deemed to be highly competitive in terms of what obtains in the banking industry.
“Niger State has keyed into the programme as its implementation would stimulate and support socio-economic development in the state,” he added.
According to him, the repayment cost was manageable, adding that it would not be too much burden on the monthly cash flow of the state.
Similarly, the House commenced debate on the 2019 budget by the governor.
NGO Urges FG To Increase Agric Financing
The Fresh and Young Brains Development Initiative (FBIN), an NGO, has appealed to the Federal Government to increase its funding on agriculture, especially for women and youth farmers to increase their yields.
The Founder of the initiative, Mrs Nkiruka Nnaemego, made the call on Monday in Abuja at the Yfarm National Colloquium on Attracting Public Financing in Sustainable Agriculture for Youth and Women Small Scale Farmers.
Nnaemego said that the Nigerian government had committed to the 2014 Malabo Principles of ensuring increase in public funding to at least 10 per cent of the national budget to the agricultural sector.
According to her, this will enable the countries effectively implement their programmes to reduce hunger and increase productivity among in Africa.
She said that this commitment had not been achieved and it was affecting the productivity of small scale farmers, who consisted of about 70 per cent of the country’s farming population.
“This colloquium provides a unique platform for stakeholders in agriculture to brainstorm on innovative models and approaches for attracting public financing and government involvement in agriculture.
“From the Malabo declaration, which African Heads of State agreed to commit 10 per cent of their countries’ budgets to agriculture, it is unfortunately that Nigeria is still below three per cent.
“Agriculture is the way to go now since the country is looking for other options aside oil. We need to increase finance in agriculture.
“Although the Federal Government is trying, but it should try harder,” she said.
She explained that Yfarm project’s goal was to promote a youth/women-led agribusiness society by reducing poverty, thereby increasing active youth/women participation in sustainable agriculture by 2020.
She said that Yfarm Project had been at the forefront of policy advocacy, media engagement, capacity building and mentoring of rural and vulnerable youth/women in some parts of Africa.
“We celebrate outstanding youths and women, provide access to markets and business networking through our National and African Youth Agric Festivals and Concerts,” she stated.
The Project Coordinator, Food and Agriculture, Actionaid Nigeria, Mr Azubike Nwokoye appealed to the Federal Government to create an enabling environment to attract private investment. He further urged government at all levels to do their parts by increasing public financing on agriculture across all areas with comparative advantages.
”That is a failure in its own already.”
Soni appealed to the government to make available inputs by January not in April and May when such inputs were not needed.
The Programme Officer, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Mr Alphonsus Onwuemeka said that agriculture was in the concurrent list and urged the state governments to play their parts to lessen the burden on the Federal Government.
He acknowledged the Federal Government’s support to agriculture and urged women to take advantage of the gender unit created by government at the Ministry of Agriculture to handle women challenges.
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