Sharing the Gift: Moringa Edition

Sharing the Gift: Moringa Edition

“Of course I remain grateful to you and Spirit in Action for your patience with me and the encouragement you have always given to us in our work. Please remember that anytime you will be in need of expert knowledge to support any community-based Moringa project, in any part of the world, you can count on me to offer free voluntary service. It is not an exaggeration to say I can help in any work on Moringa from cultivation, processing and the entire value chain development.”

Sharing a piglet may be the most tangible way of Sharing the Gift. But the offer of “free voluntary service” by Newton Amaglo, SIA grantee and long-time correspondent with Del Anderson, is another exciting way that our partners pay-it-forward to benefit the larger Spirit in Action community.

Del and Newton (then an ambitious researcher at the Kwame Nkrumah’ University of Science and Technology, in Ghana) discussed bio-intensive farming, which can produce large amounts of food in a small garden plot. They also shared an excitement for the possibility of Moringa – a fast-growing and highly-nutritious tree – to improve the diets of people around the world.


How can Moringa be incorporated into a diet? Newton explains, “the leaves can be harvested fresh and eaten cooked or uncooked in vegetable salad, soups and stews. It can equally be dried at home, milled, and stored in air-tight containers where it can be added to meals.”

In 2008, SIA gave $5,500 to Newton and his research team to start Moringa plantations at an elementary school and one of the local prisons. Prison food is as bad around the world as it is in the US, and so they were in particular need of nutritious supplements in their diets! The training and garden plots were just getting off the ground when Newton left Ghana for China, where he began working on a Masters degree and PhD in Horticulture.

In his letter Newton told me more about what he was researching, “During my Masters I worked on Moringa leaf production under high density and I have been working on various Moringa seed oil extraction technologies. I pray that all these years of painful sacrifices and studies will go a long way to help the human race.”


Harvesting the Moringa plants.

Needless to say, I eagerly took Newton up on the offer to share his findings! He emailed back with a very helpful guide for starting a small-scale Moringa garden at home. The guide, (with pictures!) shows how to prepare a four meter square plot by turning up the soil (double digging) and adding manure. Then you sow seeds in the four quadrants and the Moringa leaves will be ready to harvest after two months!

The research is already rippling out through the SIA network. I remembered seeing small Moringa plants when I visited Meanly Mbeye’s home in Malawi in 2014 and thought that she could benefit from the information about intensifying her production. I sent the instructions to Canaan Gondwe to pass along to her and other community members.

Canaan was excited to receive the document and to learn more about Moringa. “The tree seedlings you saw at Meanly Mbeyes home have grown big and they are using the leaves for nutrition. May Newton share more literature of his research. Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative is interested in this.” And so, the research of one SIA partner is shared to another, strengthening our network and improving diets.

Menaly with the Moringa trees around her family's farm. Moringa leaves contain Vitamin C, Vitamin A, calcium, potassium, and protein!

Menaly with the Moringa trees around her family’s farm. Moringa leaves contain Vitamin C, Vitamin A, calcium, potassium, and protein!

Updates from Ghana and Kenya

Updates from Ghana and Kenya

Who’s that lady?

Reader question! “I love the SIA newsletter. What is the story behind the pic of the beautiful woman with the lovely smile on page 6? Looks like she has a big tray of maize or something and I’m wondering if you can tell me her story.”

Tanya’s Response: I’m sorry that I neglected to add a caption to her photo. This woman is one of the 50 women who attended a sustainable agriculture training at Shape Lives Foundation in Ghana, sponsored by Spirit in Action. The woman in front is holding a tray of brown rice and the trees surrounding her are Moringa trees. Moringa is a highly nutritious plant and the leaves can be ground up and added to food as a vitamin supplement. (Read more about Moringa here and here.) Shape Lives has been integrating Moringa in with the rice at their demonstration farm to help improve the nutrition in their community. The plants grew well together and they are planning to train more women to add Moringa to their home gardens. The women who attend the training and help with the harvest get to take home some of the rice!

New Businesses in Nairobi, Kenya

Five new groups in Nairobi, Kenya received their initial $100 Small Business Fund grants in February.

The new business leaders: Back row - Wilkister, Pheris, Ann & Pamela. Front row-Tina & Josephine

The new business leaders: Back row – Wilkister, Pheris, Ann & Pamela. Front row – Tina & Josephine (Josephine is one of the local business mentors.

  • Ann Ayuma and her husband George Mungai and their daughter Phyllis Ayuma are the members. They chose the group Mwangaza which means light and they will sell cooked food.
  • A family group of mother Wilkister Akumu, father Ronald Omondi Okumu, and their child Juliet Ochieng. They chose the name Hekima – Wisdom for their kiosk.
  • Pheris Amati has an existing business of making bags with her husband Kennedy Adai. Their daughter Sela Obanda will join them.
  • Pamela Anyango is the group leader. She has a small shop and sells by the roadside items like tissues and diapers, and also cooks and sells githeri (beans and corn). Their groups name is Ebenezer.
  • Mama Tony Boutique is the name of their business. The leader’s name is Tina Violet Amati and she does hair but doesn’t have a place – she is a free lancer.

And a New Sewing Machine!

Caroline with her new sewing machine, working on a school uniform.

Carolyne with her new sewing machine, working on a school uniform.

Carolyne joined up with other two friends to start the God’s Favor Tailoring Group with a Spirit in Action Small Business Fund grant a year ago and their business is going strong. With the second grant installment of $50, in addition to reinvesting their profit, they bought a new machine and added to their stock. They are now able to pay school fees, eat better, and pay rent from their profits. Judy, who had taken her kids to stay with her mother in the village, said she would bring them back to live with her because life had improved. Alfayo, a high school student, is able to pay his fees and meet his other basic needs. The only down side so far is that because they specialize on school uniforms, the business went down once school started. However, they did get some new orders for other types of clothes around Christmas and Easter.

3 things and a newsletter

Canaan Gondwe found Moringa powder at a health fair in Malawi.

Canaan Gondwe found Moringa powder at a health fair in Malawi.

1. Fall newsletter is here!

The newsletter is off to the printers! You can get early access to the stories and photos of local empowerment (in FULL COLOR!) by downloading a copy here.

2. Grant impact continues in Ghana

In 1992, even before SIA was officially born, Del Anderson sponsored Newton Amaglo to learn about the “miracle tree” Moringa. The encouragement, support, and information has made a lasting impact. For the last three years, Newton has been traveling back and forth between his native Ghana and China where he is researching Moringa as part of a PhD in Food Science!

A 2008 SIA grant to Newton and his team of researchers in Ghana helped them start Moringa garden plots in schools and prisons. (Read about the prison project here.)

Moringa is highly nutritious and fast-growing, which makes it a good supplement for the poor diets of vulnerable Ghanaians. Newton wrote me this week saying, “The legacy [of the project you funded] still lingers on and has been taking different impacts and dimensions.”

Further proof that a small grant can ripple out to reach many more people than ever imagined.

For more about Newton and Moringa, see here and here.

3. When things don’t work out, share.

Feel-good story of the day: Family Hosts 200 Homeless People for Dinner After Daughter’s Wedding Gets Called Off

4. Pray for Kenya

The standoff between militants and Kenyan forces at a Nairobi mall seems finally to be over, after three full days of terror and over 70 deaths. (Read the latest news here.) There are reports that some of the militants were Somali-Americans from Minnesota, though it hasn’t been confirmed. The situation worries and saddens me and so I ask you to keep all involved, including Somali communities around the world, in your prayers.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Local Action Shapes Lives in Ghana

Women with fuel-efficient stoves in Ghana.

Women with fuel-efficient stoves in Ghana.

“Even though you might not see face-to-face how lives are changing, I want to let you know that your support is transforming so many lives in our community,” began Alexander Kedje of Shape Lives Foundation, Ghana in a recent email to me.

When we think of charity in Africa, big name organizations are probably the first to come to mind. We hear about World Vision, UNICEF, and Heifer International but it’s the small, unknown, local organizations like Shape Lives Foundation that are perfectly situated to help people in their own communities.

These local organizations, as the blogger Jennifer Lentfer points out, are able to best understand the situation on the ground, and are already rooted and integrated into the community. Where the large international organizations have to work hard to meet people and promote projects, local leaders like Alexander are already known and respected by the people they serve.

I’ve been in contact with Alexander and Shape Lives Foundation for two years now and I am always so excited to see the progress they are making toward empowering the poor and raising the standard of living for the women in their area.

Part of Del Anderson’s mission for Spirit in Action was to encourage and promote local leaders and so, although we have not given a grant to Shape Lives Foundation, I share with you a few highlights from 2011 so that you too can appreciate their local work and service:

* Twenty-five women are now employed in their Moringa Processing Center, plucking the leaves and grinding them into a powder. This great video shows how they process the Moringa leaves into a highly nutritious dietary supplement.
* 1200 Moringa trees have been replanted to grow more leaves to process in 2012.
* Seven women received fuel-efficient stoves and training. Not only will the stoves produce less smoke, they also make it so the women do not have to gather or buy as much wood to cook meals.

Congratulations, Shape Lives Foundation! And we stand with you as your continue your important work in 2012.

Take action, for it is your duty, and we are with you; be strong, and do it. –Ezra 10:4

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A Phone Call from Ghana

Ring, ring…. “Hello?”

“Hello, it’s Newton from Ghana! The world just got a lot smaller…”

So began my Skype conversation yesterday with Newton Amaglo, one of Spirit in Action’s partners in Kumasi, Ghana. Using Skype to “call” me for free online, Newton could see and hear me in real time! It was an exciting experience to hear his voice and catch a quick update on his work growing Moringa plants.

SIA Board member, John Bayer, recently returned from a trip to Senegal and has been enthusiastically networking to see how Moringa might be used in prisons there. John wrote in an email, “We visited the prison while we were there and were shocked at the really terrible conditions with the 700 inmates all living in very cramped facilities with only one meal a day unless they had families in the area to bring them food in the afternoons. Many were malnourished and some were suffering from skin disease/parasites from the very thin infested mattresses they slept on. Don’t need to go on for you to see the huge need here. All I can think of is Newton Amaglo and the Moringa leaf powder and the results he has had, especially with the prison inmates.

In July 2010, I wrote about how Newton and others on his research team used a SIA Community Grant to train prison employees to grow Moringa. This fast growing and important nutritional supplement can be added to the food of the inmates in the prison infirmaries to great benefit.

Yesterday, Newton told me that they recently trained two more prison employees to grow and process the Moringa. Together, they are building a drier to dry the Moringa leaves, and a mill to grind them into a fine powder to add to the inmates’ soup.

The most efficient way to grow Moringa is in a densely packed square-foot garden and in one season the plants can grow 7 meters (23 ft) over a number of harvests! Above is a picture of one of the researchers demonstrating how to cut the leaves and still keep the plant alive.

Newton said that the prisons all had garden plots that had fallen into disuse. With the gift of training and Moringa seedlings, Newton has since seen a revived interest in gardening at the prisons. He is hopeful that more people will discover the immense health benefits of Moringa and use it more often as a food supplement.

Spirit in Action’s mission is to create a “worldwide network” and this connection between Senegal and Ghana is just part of it – and the Skype call with Newton Amaglo helped that worldwide network feel a little bit more close-knit!

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