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.

moringa_growing_4-16

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.”

moringa_harvesting_4-16

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.

Meanly’s Family Farm

The crew of friends that joined us along the way during a day of site visits. Here they are enjoying a donut made by Meanly.

The crew of friends that joined us along the way during a day of site visits. Here they are enjoying a donut made by Meanly.

It was still morning on July 10th and we were already visiting our fourth Small Business Fund (SBF) family in Manyamula Village, Malawi. The morning started with me, Boyd (SIA Advisory Board member), and Canaan Gondwe (local SIA SBF Coordinator) in the truck, along with our driver, Mr. Mango. By the time we reached Chisomo Place, several more people had hopped in the back of the truck. Two more followed along on the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative motorbike.

The crew of our escorts and on-lookers created a festive atmosphere around the site visits. They were there to see their friends from the cooperative, experience the exciting atmosphere of an international visitor, and to make sure we caught everything on camera.

Meanly shows us a bucket of donuts. She sells in the markets and to the local World Vision training center./

Meanly shows us a bucket of donuts. She sells in the markets and to the local World Vision training center./

Meanly Mbeye, a widow, runs Chisomo Place farm with her siblings, children, and elderly mother, a practice common on African small farms. Also typical, Meanly has pieced together several small enterprises to provide for everyone. Receiving the $150 SIA grant in 2013 helped to revive the family dairy production. They had a cow, but it desperately needed vaccines and better food. The grant went toward these necessities and now the cow produces enough milk to sell to surrounding families and to the local World Vision center.

In addition to the milk, Meanly also bakes and sells donuts four days a week, earning up to $120 each week. To help her with this work, she has hired another woman to help with the baking. SIA SBF owners are job creators!

The family cows, enclosed in a pen to keep them safe from disease.

The family cows, enclosed in a pen to keep them safe from disease.

Last week I talked about passing along the joy of giving. Meanly has not only hired another person to help with the business, she has also trained another woman, named Joyce Banda (but not the Malawian past-president!) in baking and marketing donuts. Joyce also received the gift of a bag of flour for her first round of baking.

Menaly with the Moringa trees around her family's farm.

Menaly with the Moringa trees around her family’s farm.

Another piece of the family investment is a small – and growing – Moringa farm. Del Anderson (SIA Founder) was really interested in the potential benefits of Moringa. Canaan remembered that and has encouraged people in his community to plant these fast-growing trees with leaves that provide countless medicinal and nutritional benefits. Meanly proudly showed us the 35 Moringa seedlings and Winkly eagerly picked and ate a few of the leaves. I tried a few too – not too bad tasting, and they’re good for you!

Meanly was delighted to be able to show us her thriving homestead. Canaan was pleased to share the accomplishments of the family he has mentored. And I was impressed to see Menaly’s strength and perseverance in the face of the needs of her large family. They received the grant less than a year ago and already they are reinvesting to expand their farm and create sustainable businesses. And they are able to provide better food and medical care for the whole family.

As we left, Meanly sent us (and the crew that followed us) a basket of donuts and “minerals” (soda) for the next visit. One more display of gratitude and generosity for the road!

Meanly with her family, including her elderly mother in the pink sweater, who has many health challenges.

Meanly with her family, including her elderly mother in the pink sweater, who has many health challenges.

Making me happy: Savings Groups, Moringa, & the Unexpected

I started my morning today with one of the things making me happy this week: Moringa Green Tea! And from there I read a great article about local leadership in Liberia and then received an encouraging update from the new savings and loans group in Zambia.

I guess you can say that there are a lot of SIA-related things making me happy this week. Here’s a taste to share with you:

1. Savings and Loans in Zambia

Chickens in a coop at a school campus in Kitale, Kenya.

Chickens in a coop at a school campus in Kitale, Kenya.

This new savings and loans cooperative in Mfuwe, Zambia started just last summer after SIA-partner Canaan Gondwe held a training workshop there. Below the cooperative’s new leader, Mrs. Misozi Kadewele, tells us how the group is working together to succeed:

“The co-operative is doing well although we met less days in December as everyone was busy with their families. We have started giving out small amounts of Loans to individuals with security. The chickens are doing very very well. We have now 25 active members in the co-operative. We give each other turns to clean up the chicken houses and those who can not make time pay a small fee towards the cooperative.”

Money raised from the chicken sales goes to build the loan fund. The group is considering buying an incubator for the eggs, in order to speed up the process of production and hatching.

2. Moringa Green Tea

moringa tea

Moringa, the “miracle tree,” is one of the plants that Del encouraged people around the world to plant. In part, this was because its leaves are highly nutritious. It’s said that Moringa contains amino acids, protein, potassium, calcium, iron, and so much more. Wow!

I bought Moringa powder a few years ago and made some tea out of it, but I wasn’t wowed with the flavor. However, this week I bought some Moringa tea that’s blended with green tea. The result is a very nice, earthly green tea – and it’s good for me too!

The brand I got in Canada is RootAlive. You can also find it in the US through Grenera. I’d love to try the Moringa Apple Infusion sometime!

3. Respect for the Unexpected

One of my general New Year’s resolutions is to “go with the flow” more. To allow for the unexpected in life and welcome that unknown as a chance to grow. This quote from the Swiss philosopher and poet Henri Frédéric Amiel speaks to that:

Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always turning up your whole soil with the plowshare of self-examination, but leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds may bring, and reserve a nook of shadow for the passing bird; keep a place in your heart for the unexpected guests, an altar for the unknown God.

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.

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