In Malawi, malnutrition and food insecurity are major challenges citizens contend with. In fact, for children under the age of 5, 13 percent are classified as underweight, while 47 percent are classified as “stunted.” And while the majority of Malawians are farmers, the nation still reportedly experiences year-round food insecurity. Adding to the southeastern African country’s woes is that it also depends heavily on maize, which is a low-nutrient food. However, as its name indicates, the African Moringa & Permaculture Project is using Moringa trees and permaculture to tackle these issues.
Writing in the Guardian, Moringa Project Director Pierre Moorsam explains what an ideal forest environment looks like:
Imagine a dense forest of mango trees, acacias, citrus trees, coconut palms, guavas, moringas, towering tamarinds, and mahoganies. Climbing up many of these trees are passion fruit, air potato, loofa and shushu. Pigeon pea, cassava, the purple flowering tephrosia, hibiscus, amaranth, and the big yellow flowers of cassia alata occupy the shrub and herbaceous layers.
Turmeric, arrow root, and ginger grow in abundance. Aloe vera grows here and there and cow pea, sweet potato, and watermelon crawl along the forest floor or edge. The ground is strewn with a thick layer of decomposing leaves, which serve to build rich, healthy soils and maintain the link with microorganisms.
A mass of flowering species create excellent environments for bees and other beneficial insects. The system is self-replicating, has great commercial value and is highly beneficial to the health of all creatures that interact with it.
African Moringa was established in Malawi in 2012 with a focus on planting 15,000 Moringa trees in Kasankha Bay. Permaculture is the practice of employing traditional methods of natural resource management with modern technologies to create sustainable ecosystems that respect plants and animals and the important functions that they play.
The reason African Moringa is focusing its efforts on the Moringa tree is because, according to the organization, it can be used to effectively combat malnutrition:
The highly nutritious leaves of the fast growing, drought resistant Moringa tree can be used as a multivitamin food supplement and are ideally designed to target malnutrition fast.
According to the UNFAO, gram for gram Moringa leaves have two times more protein than yogurt, four times more calcium than milk, slightly more potassium than bananas, slightly more vitamin A than carrots and three times the vitamin C of oranges.
They also contain antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and all the essential amino acids.
Watch a video on the benefits of the Moringa tree here:
In addition, Moorsam writes about the importance of African countries, such as Malawi, diversifying and prioritizing their forests:
The diversity and quasi-natural quality of food forests guarantees the good health of those dependent upon them; eat a wide variety of fresh forest produce all year and you are unlikely to suffer from malnutrition.
If we create such systems throughout Malawi with the people who need them most, we will go a long way toward eradicating malnutrition and food sovereignty issues while reducing flooding and providing many other benefits.
A clear-cut government mandate to scale up the work of permaculture designers to create food forests and water-harvesting systems, particularly in the highlands, would radically change the face of this country. As well as fixing so many problems, it would make Malawi a cutting-edge African nation, embracing genuinely sustainable solutions that are both innovative and traditional.
Read the rest of this important offering here.