The Need and Demand for Moringa
Ghana and invariably, Africa, is reeling in the throes of malnutrition which is having a devastating toll on the citizenry and affects productivity with high infant and maternal mortalities. This made the former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to comment at a seminar on reducing hunger in Addis Ababa in 2004 that Africa was the only continent where child malnutrition was getting worse rather than better. He then called for a green revolution in Africa to reduce hunger.
Where food is available, it is at times highly deficient as it is based mainly on carbohydrates without adequate protein, vitamins and other micronutrients. The pharmaceutical and food industries tend to fight malnutrition with imported expensive vitamin and nutritional supplements. Some of these supplements are not readily available biologically for the body to use optimally. Moringa offers a local solution to combat malnutrition as bioavailability of majority of its nutrients makes it of immense value to help in wiping out malnutrition and make it a historical relic if our governments will be determined to undertake this exercise. Nutritional values of Moringa pods, fresh leaves and dried leaf powder by Dr. Lowell J. Fuglie showed a wonderful array of nutrients.
Church World Service nutrition program in West Africa based in Dakar, Senegal and under Dr. Lowell J. Fuglie, has successfully used Moringa oleifera as a base to cure and prevent malnutrition in children, pregnant and lactating women. It is reported that usage of Moringa leaves brought improvement in malnourished children in just a few days.
The quest for a proper nutritional program for livestock will result in the adoption of Moringa based feed. Whilst attention is on the use of Moringa leaves for combating malnutrition, we should not forget that plants and the soil can be effectively nourished with Moringa for productivity to increase. Large quantities of organic fertilizers and animal feed can be produced from Moringa.
The food supplement market will be enriched with Moringa products if proper standards are set in Ghana to control such to ensure the production of quality products that can stand local and international markets. The cosmetic industry needs Vitamin E and other preservatives which are provided by Moringa oil with the water industry using the seed cake for water purification.
Commercial Applications of Moringa
Moringa products, namely Moringa leaves (fresh or shade dried leaf powder), Moringa leaf puree, Moringa capsules, Moringa pods, Moringa seeds, Moringa tea powder, Moringa fruit powder, Moringa oil and Moringa seed cake powder are available on commercial basis by some companies in India, China and some African countries.
In addition to these, there is found in some countries, various international marketing initiatives for Moringa leaves and products as food supplements.
Jaw Der Develop Co Limited of Taiwan sells Moringa leaf powder for use as tea and leaf capsule as food supplement and an energy booster. Many Indian companies deal in various Moringa products which include Mother Herbs and Tam Herb. Himalaya Herbal Healthcare with offices in India, USA, Europe, Singapore, Cayman Islands and the United Arab Emirates sells four products: massage oil, drug for joints, an immune booster and two veterinarian products, which have Moringa parts in the formulation.
Health and Prosper Co. Limited in the Philippines sells Moringa capsules made of 100% plant parts without additives. Homecure in the USA sells 100% dried leaf powder in capsules or in powder form. Zija International, USA, produces and sells a Moringa drink ZijaTM made up of various parts of Moringa plant. Isoke Laboratory in Sacramento, California, produces and sells a herbal concentrate Olefra, made from Moringa which provides a 20-day deep tissue detoxification of the body.
In Ghana, apart from a few individuals and small scale companies producing dried Moringa powder, no serious effort has been made to engage in the commercial cultivation, processing and marketing of Moringa products in the country. Asare Farms and Newmas Limited are on top in Ashanti region, Brong Ahafo Moringa Farmers Association in Brong Ahafo region, Permaculture in Volta region, Corpus Herbal Medicines Company Limited and Afrimart Limited in Greater Accra region with Moringa Connect, in the same region, producing moringa oil.
Christian Volunteer Service International has through the PALMS project established large tracts of Moringa farms in five regions in Ghana under various women groups and co-operative societies and through her social venture, Moringa Oleifera Farms and Industries Limited. We produce Moringa leaf powder, in bulk and retail, tea bags and capsules, sell Moringa seeds and intend to produce Moringa fortified foods, Moringa black soap and cosmetics, which will not include any chemical, Moringa biodiesel, Moringa water purification tablets, Moringa organic fertilizers and biogas in the near future.
After the organic certification programme of our farms and production facilities have been concluded, probably by first quarter of next year 2015, an ambitious export and local promotion program will be undertaken to assist in intake by the citizenry of moringa products for the eradication of malnutrition in the first instance
There are also alcoholic beverages purported to have been manufactured from parts of the Moringa tree especially the root, bark and leaves by some small local companies.
Future of Moringa in Ghana
The Moringa story is catching up in many countries and Ghana is waking up to join the chorus. Over the years, intense activities by various non-governmental organisations in the country have tended to get people to know of the wonderful potential offered by this miracle of nature. The Ministry of Health has developed a new health policy which aims at improving the health status of citizens through the adoption of healthy lifestyles especially nutrition. Children are targeted so that a solid health foundation is laid in them to build a strong nation of healthy and productive citizens.
A strong plan from cultivation, processing and marketing of Moringa products needs to be put in place in the country if efforts at engaging in Moringa production can be taken seriously. Resources are to be pooled together to facilitate Moringa product supply with proper and strengthened organisational capabilities and linkages for sustainable production and marketing both local and export.
It is important that these efforts are put in place from the beginning to ensure that we do not get into production and marketing problems that have been the bane of many initiatives in many countries, especially those in Africa, in times past. A strong association of producers and marketers needs to be put in place to set and regulate standards in association with the regulatory bodies in the country namely: Ghana Standards Authority, Food and Drugs Authority, the Mampong Research Institute into Plant Medicine, Food Research Institute, Moringa Association of Ghana, Moringa Oleifera Farmers Association and other tertiary institutions.
The present free-for-all field by traditional medicine producers to manufacture and market products without adequate production and marketing standards leaves much to be desired. If a strong regime of standards is not followed with proper quality control and certification, it will be difficult to penetrate the European and American markets with our intended products.
Moringa products have a high potential in the food supplement markets in Europe and America but there are many hurdles to cross. Europe alone controls over 30% of the 45 billion dollar world food supplement market. Other competing products exist in the “green superfoods” sector of the market of which the prominent ones are spirulina, green barley, wheat and alfalfa sprouts and Noni juice which is like Moringa with similar composition and effects and labeled as Morinda citrifolia. With spirulina and cereal sprouts well known in the USA, Moringa products may be able to penetrate if proper conditions are established like proper food supplement certification, sufficient production capacity, organic certification, attractive packaging and target ethnic markets like Indian, African and Caribbean in addition to other marketing and promotional strategies.
The market for food supplements in Europe is wide and there is room for new products from the Moringa stable. All the same, producers in Africa will be in serious competition with Asian farmers especially Indian and Chinese in the event of a breakthrough. To get attention and keep up in the market, African producers will need to ensure that production costs are kept low and standards very high.
Moringa trees have been used as fences, consumed in human diet and used as animal fodder in Ghana especially in the Volta and some Northern regions for many years and is therefore not a strange plant here. Cultivation of Moringa on a large scale should therefore be concentrated in these areas especially in the Volta region around the mountainous scarps of the northern sector of the region and spread down to the low plains of the south. With a Moringa cultivation belt established, an effective push will then be made to reach the Eastern region and gradually move on to other parts of the country with standard processing units established. As proper adherence to sound quality control and production standards are maintained and vigorous marketing campaigns are launched both local and overseas, Moringa products will be established in Ghana and we will also enjoy the benefits derived from this wonderful plant.
With the Moringa story being told all over the world, it is a wonder why the usage of Moringa products is not more widespread than it is now. In Ghana, many people are still ignorant of this miracle of nature and the benefits they can derive from using its products. An effective campaign must be conducted by various ministries and government agencies, civil societies including faith based and community based organisations and the private sector.
Although laboratory tests have established Moringa’s non-toxicity and nutritional composition, a lot needs to be done to make Moringa to be acceptable in national and international programs especially its effectiveness and safety. This will pave the way for an effective launch of Moringa in all sectors of the global community without regulatory restrictions in any part of the world. Whilst this is being done, Ghana, and Africa in general, needs to brace themselves to be in the forefront of the new and bulging food supplement market being spearheaded by Moringa.
With proper education, planning and investment in the cultivation, processing and marketing of Moringa products in global acceptable standards, Ghana stands to gain greatly from this new miracle. We have done it with cocoa and can do it also with Moringa. However, unlike cocoa where we produced and marketed more of unprocessed cocoa beans, we stand to gain more by engaging in producing world class standard Moringa products that can stand their feet in local and international fields. Let us go on telling the Moringa story and brace ourselves to take advantage of the offer Moringa is putting forth to help us wipe out malnutrition from our country and continent, produce healthy citizens for greater economic growth and put more money in our pockets through a vibrant local and export market.