Moringa Agro-Processing Community Project
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have recommended a dietary intake of more than 400g of fruit and vegetables per day to prevent nutrient deficiency, indicating that fruit and vegetables play a crucial role in combatting food insecurity. Approximately 75% of the world’s hungry and poor population live in rural areas and agriculture is crucial to their survival. The Moringa tree is a multi-purpose plant that produces edible leaves and seeds, and can be used to purify water or as a companion plant for other crops. However, relatively little is known about the optimal cultivation of the Moringa tree and the related best agricultural methods. Such knowledge could benefit indigent communities significantly. As such ARC and the DST initiated the Sedikong Moringa Farm community project in Tooseng, Limpopo to develop such knowledge and discover potential alternatives for nutrition and food security. We refer to this project as the Moringa technology transfer project. The project is based at ARC Vegetable and Ornamental Plants, Roodeplaat. The project is developing technologies that are applicable to Moringa including cultivation, post-harvest handling, processing, packaging, quality control, and storage, conducted research on the blending of Moringa leaves with some herbal and vegetable crops in order to improve nutritional and therapeutic values. The communities have benefited from the developed technologies throughout, establishing this value chain has led to increased productivity in Moringa agro-processing sector and therefore aided in creating the much-needed jobs. This has resulted in enormous socio-economic upliftment through income generation, production, distribution, and sales of a wide range of products derived from the Moringa. The research for this technology transfer project is funded by the Department of Science and Technology - Indigenous Knowledge (DST-IK) based Technology Innovation and is intended to empower enterprises through the development of agro-processing technologies on Moringa for improved food security, health, and economic empowerment.
Moringa oleifera in South Africa has been advocated as a preferred crop for food security based on its high nutritional values. A number of Moringa enterprises have been successfully established in Gauteng and Limpopo with coordination of ARC-Vegetable and Ornamental Plants (VOP). The original ARC-VOP project is based at Roodeplaat and is developing technologies that are applicable to Moringa agro-processing including cultivation, post-harvest handling, processing, packaging, quality control, and storage, conducted research on blending of Moringa leaves with some herbal and vegetable crops in order to improve nutritional and therapeutic values. Roodeplaat being the successful prototype facility, it was soon replicated into more community projects; including Sedikong sa lerato in Tooseng, Limpopo, and Phedisanang in peri-urban Gauteng, as well as a number of other smallholding farmers and entrepreneurs interested in Moringa at other sites. The facilities are built using low-cost materials such as shipping containers and other green technologies including solar geysers for water. The design of each facility consists of shipping containers that are clustered together, where the roofs are closed to offer more room and surfaces for processing the Moringa and allowing the post-harvest treatment of the leaves.
The communities have benefited from the developed technologies by establishing a production value chain. Subsequently, this has led to increased productivity in Moringa agro-processing sector and creating many local jobs. The enormous socio-economic impact through local income generation, production, distribution, and sales of a wide range of Moringa derived product has been evident. Aside from the retail related benefits for the community, the Moringa production has allowed for localised upliftment as well. The Sedikong Moringa Project has established a school feeding scheme where fresh Moringa (identified as an alternative crop for alleviating malnutrition) leaves are served as a vegetable relish. As this site is nestled between two schools (one primary and the other secondary) and a new clinic at the entrance of the village, it serves as a drop-in center providing both meals and after-school care to more than 320 school children throughout the past six years. The project feeds children from households with a combined income of less than R2 000 (USD145) a month.
These interventions have opened up a number of marketing avenues for the ARC, and the involved communities to access both local and international markets. The ARC has partnered with pharmaceutical giants such as Parceval Pharmaceuticals for exports markets into the European spheres. This will likely generate an access of R2 million/year for ARC and similar amounts for the communities. Locally, the intervention has grabbed the attention of FutureLife® which has agreed to take up products from Sedikong for distribution. Avodeli Premium Food Products has also expressed willingness to work with the ARC and communities involved to promote Moringa based products.
We consider the Moringa technologies and related projects to be unique in the sense that as a crop, all of its parts (leaves, seeds, roots, and flowers) are suitable for human and animal consumption. And by building relatives inexpensive agricultural and agro-processing facilities, Moringa crops can be exploited for both economic and nutritional/social impact gain in indigent communities. The leaves, which are rich in protein, minerals, vitamins and antioxidant compounds, are used not only for human and animal nutrition but also in traditional medicine. The seeds, have attracted scientific interest as Moringa oleifera seed kernels contain a significant amount of oil (up to 40%) with a high-quality fatty acid composition (oleic acid > 70%). After a refining process, this oil shows a notable resistance to oxidative degradation. The oil is known commercially as “Ben oil” or “Behen oil”. Its properties make it suitable for both human consumption and commercial purposes. Indeed, Moringa oil could be a good substitute for olive oil in the diet as well as for non-food applications, like biodiesel, cosmetics, and a lubricant for fine machinery. Moreover, after oil extraction, the seed cake can be used in waste water treatment as a natural coagulant or as an organic fertilizer to improve agricultural productivity.
The research is funded by the DST-IK based Technology Innovation and is intended to empower enterprises through the development of agro-processing technologies on Moringa for improved food security, health, and economic empowerment. As such, ARC wants to appeal to all stake holders, including policy makers, farmers, industry, and research institutions to work towards further enhancing Moringa productivity, promoting diversification, improving infrastructure, institutional and technical capacities, and availing financial resources.
The team consists of a dynamic and strong research and technical support group, currently headed by Dr Ashwell Ndhlala. The team includes two technicians, two assistant technicians, a post-doctoral research fellow and six field workers. Dr Ndhlala has a vast knowledge of agro-processing of medicinal and food crops and he presents formidable leadership in fostering the use and processing of medicinal and food crops. He serves as a member of the Editorial Board for the South African Journal of Botany amongst others rolese and is responsible as a peer reviewer for a number of rated journals.
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