Mr. Lowell Fuglie, an American citizen, worked for 17 years based in Dakar, Senegal, as West Africa Regional Representative for the American relief and development agency Church World Service. His mandate during that time was to identify local African partners in West Africa (non-government agencies, church development offices, village associations) and work with them to implement development projects to assist the neediest.
He did his own research to discover ways to assist partners. One result was the publication of a book, supported by The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), entitled “Producing Food Without Pesticides: Local solutions to crop pest control in West Africa,” a collection of organic approaches to food production using locally-available resources.
His research also led to an interest in the Moringa tree which he read about in a monthly newsletter prepared by ECHO: Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization, which referred to the edible leaves of the fast-growing Moringa tree as the most nutritious of all tropical vegetables. When he learned that Moringa was already present in countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa and that its leaves were already a part of the diets of some groups, he wondered why, with such a valuable source of nutrition readily available, there still exists high rates of malnutrition.
This led to the development of a project to conduct a field trial to determine the extent to which Moringa could be effective in preventing or curing malnutrition. Between 1997 and 1999, in association with the Senegalese organization AGADA (Alternative Action for African Development), the idea of drying Moringa leaves and turning them into a powder for use as a nutritional supplement was developed, and the project trained rural health workers and village women in the Casamance region of southern Senegal in its use. Mothers who brought malnourished children to clinics were given packets of the powder to be added to the child’s food every day. (The previous method of treating malnourished children was to advise women to purchase milk, vegetable oil and other costly items to feed their children – a method too costly for many).
The project’s results far exceeded expectations, with malnourished children returning to good health in less than 40 days, and rates of malnutrition in some areas dropped significantly. A short, 60-page book about the project and the Moringa tree was published. It led to considerable publicity, including a front page article on the Los Angeles Times, page 2 of the International Herald Tribune, an interview on American public radio, and even a documentary featured world-wide on the Discovery Health Channel.
In 2001, the first international workshop on Moringa took place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania with the help of Dr. Armelle de Saint-Sauveur of the French organization PROPAGE. This workshop was attended by over 120 people from 27 countries. In the same year a new, expanded book on Moringa was published, again with CTA support, with versions in both English and French.
Since then, interest and use of Moringa has rapidly grown. Today there exist national associations of Moringa promoters in over five African countries, and there are Moringa promotion projects underway throughout the third world. To learn more about Moringa, consult the website created by Dr. Saint-Sauveur: www.moringanews.org
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