Endemic to the coastal region of Kenya, in no way is Moringa a new plant. It has been commonly eaten around the world for hundreds of years. The tree has been regarded as a wonder plant because of its numerous benefits. The leaves and roots are edible and the seeds can be used to purify water. Oil produced from its seeds is used mostly in cosmetics and veterinary treatments. Moringa is very nutritious. It is rich in vitamins and minerals and is used to treat many illnesses such as high blood pressure, obesity and malnutrition. Moreover, its environmental impact is without doubt one of the greatest.
For the coastal community however, the plant lacked the economic value as it was highly regarded for traditional use only. It is with this reason that one enterprise, Moringa Kilifi Estate, set out on a mission to change the value of the Moringa tree in Kilifi County.
Moringa is a plant the locals are familiar with and it is commonly used by the traditional healers as medicine. The only thing that was missing from the equation was the economic rationale. Nobody had figured out how to turn this into money. That is how we decided to start this venture and offered to buy the moringa seeds which were normally discarded off as waste, said Papu Haroon, the CEO of Moringa Kilifi Estate.
Their work centers around the rural regions in Kilifi county. “Moringa Kilifi Estate has been working here since 2015. We encourage the farmers to grow the plant as a cash crop,” Haroon explained.
To increase the use of Moringa among the community, the enterprise made the plant available to more than 500 farmers and educated them on how to grow the plant and also on the various benefits it held. The idea to cultivate the wonder plant as a cash crop has significantly transformed the lives of the people in Kilifi County.
“We have created a whole new source of income for the local community. We purchase all our products from the local farmers giving them a source of income to support their families,” Haroon said. “In addition, we have provided the community with a very robust source of nutrition. This has boosted their health and immunity.”
The enterprise, through a bottom line approach, has reduced poverty levels in the area and also offered the community a variety of healthy choices to choose from.
The tree, according to Haroon, is very vital in purifying the air of carbon and other impurities. He said, “The Moringa tree is a great carbon sequester. One Moringa tree can absorb up to three tonnes of carbon every year. This results in a healthy and livable planet.”
The journey however has not been easy.
“We are two years behind where we are supposed to be. When we started out, we envisioned a multimillion company by today. Financial challenges in 2019 and the pandemic have been the greatest cause to our stalled growth” Haroon explained.
Haroon is however happy for the opportunity to partner with Kenya Climate Ventures, who offered to aid their financial constraints.
Amidst a pandemic, KCV came to our rescue and offered us financial aid. This was a big boost to our business as we have been able to get back to our feet.
Going forward, the enterprise is looking to move up the value chain by diversifying the Moringa products. “We are looking to diversify our products from just oils to value-added products that are more consumer able,” Haroon said.