23 May May 2013 1752 23 May 2013

Moringa: the "miracle tree" for a sustainable future in Haiti

On April 30th, at the headquarters of the Ministry of Health (MSPP - Ministere de la Santé Publique et de la Population), in Port-au-Prince, the First Lady of Haiti, Sophia Martelly, opened the workshop organized by COLFAM (Commission Nationale de Lutte contre la Faim et la Malnutrition), in view of the implementation of a national program for the promotion of Moringa Oleifera.

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 as found in spinach, and more proteins than eggs.
The "Miracle Tree" not only provides leaves that help combat malnourishment, especially among children and nursing mothers, but it can also help fertilize the soil, restore degraded farmlands, and increase crop yield. Furthermore, Moringa is the best forage for livestock; it increases the weight gain of cattle and help them produce as much as 50% more milk.
Because of the Moringa leaves nutritional benefits, individual vendors in Haiti could also sell them at local markets, providing a reliable cash income.
The idea of the workshop arose from a meeting with Dr. Michel Chancy, Secretary of State for Animal Production, in January, on the occasion of the visit of Prof. Alberto Schiraldi and his staff at the ICANS center, University of Milan, Prof. Alberto Battezzati and Prof. Simona Bertoli, in order to start a collaboration with AVSI in terms of the fight against malnutrition, within the AQUAPLUS project, 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. Michelle Chancy proposed the creation of a national workshop with the aim of gathering key actors from the civil society engaged in the cultivation and use of Moringa and editing a reference document for the introduction of this plant in Haiti and its benefits at the economic, environmental and nutritional levels.
AVSI participated in the preliminary stage of the workshop through weekly meetings with the different actors involved in the writing process of 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 as well as Dr. Michel Chancy, main promoter of the initiative.
The workshop was the occasion for AVSI to present its experience on Moringa Oleifera in the fields of economy and environment (Mr. Federico Borrelli) and of fight against malnutrition (Dr. Federica Pozzi).
In the audience, there were many members from the civil society, agronomists, farmers’ organizations, doctors as well as representatives of international organizations working in Haiti.

A video realized during the preliminary activities for the elaboration of the document was presented at the workshop.