|Moringa: a “miracle tree” for a sustainable future in Haiti|
A workshop on the implementation of Haiti’s national program for the promotion of Moringa Oleifer was held at the headquarters of the Ministry of Health (MSPP – Ministere de la Santé Publique et de la Population), in Port-au-Prince, with an opening speech by the First Lady Sophia Martelly and organized by COLFAM (Commission Nationale de Lutte contre la Faim et la Malnutrition).
This tropical plant of Indian origin is commonly referred to as the “Miracle Tree”. In fact, it is naturally very fast-growing and every part, including the seeds and roots, can be consumed and has beneficial properties for the human being. Its leaves, that can be eaten fresh, cooked, or stored as dried powder for many months, are rich in beta carotene, iron, protein and potassium: a gram of Moringa leaves contains 7 times the amount of vitamin C of orange juice, 4 times more beta-carotene than carrots, 4 times more calcium than milk, 3 times more potassium than bananas and 3 times the iron found in spinach, and more proteins than an egg.
The “Miracle Tree” not only provides leaves that help combat malnutrition, especially among children and nursing mothers, but it can also help fertilize the soil, restore degraded farmlands, and increase crop yield. Furthermore, Moringa is some of the best feed for livestock; it increases the weight gain of cattle and helps them to produce as much as 50% more milk.
Because of the Moringa leaves’ nutritional benefits, individual vendors in Haiti also sell them successfully in local markets, providing reliable cash income.
The idea of the workshop began with a meeting in January among Dr. Michel Chancy, Haitian Minister for Animal Production, and professor Alberto Schiraldi and his staff at the ICANS center, University of Milan, Prof. Alberto Battezzati and Prof. Simona Bertoli, who were visiting as part of their collaboration with AVSI on the food security component of the AQUAPLUS project now being implemented by a successful partnership among several actors: Rotary International Distretto 2040 and Rotary Club Milano per Milano Foundation as leaders, EXPO 2015, the University of Milan, Unicredit Foundation, MLFM and AVSI.
During this meeting, Dr. Chancy proposed the creation of a national workshop to bring together key civil society actors engaged in the cultivation and use of Moringa and to edit a reference document promoting the introduction of this plant in Haiti, based on its benefits at the economic, environmental and nutritional levels.
AVSI participated in the preliminary stage of the workshop through weekly meetings with the various actors involved in writing the final document.
The workshop was attended by several institutional key players such as Dr. Florence Guillaume, Minister for Public Health and Population, Dr. Mimose Félix, Minister for the Promotion of the Peasantry, Dr. Rose Anne Auguste, Minister for Human Rights and the Fight against Extreme Poverty, and Dr. Chancy, the main promoter of the initiative.
The workshop was an occasion for AVSI to share its experience with Moringa Oleifera, with Mr. Federico Borrelli presenting on economic and environmental aspects, and Dr. Federica Pozzi, on the fight against malnutrition.
The audience included many members from the civil society, agronomists, farmers’ organizations, doctors, and representatives of other international organizations working in Haiti.