The moringa tree is the current day mwarobaini – a type of a medicinal tree-. When growing up, all I could hear was the marvellous things that the mwarobaini tree had done for many people. Despite growing up in the urban city of Nairobi, the mwarobaini’s ‘powers’ was common knowledge to me.
The experts would even dry up the bark of the tree sell it to people who would be instructed to boil them and drink without adding any sugar. It was said that it could treat many kinds of illnesses, up to 40, name them. In high school I went to boarding with girls from different backgrounds. I saw some girls carry brown soaps which I was made aware that it was a product of the mwarobaini tree. Not to say that they didn’t prefer the urbane soaps that their colleagues used. They must have known something that the rest of the girls did not know about the brown soaps which was their preference.
Today, the mwarobaini tree is not as popular as it used to be. The moringa tree which I call the modern-day mwarobaini might just take its position. It may not yet be as popular amongst the urbane and even the people living in the rural areas, but considering that those who know about it state that it can cure well over 300 illnesses, 7 times more powerful than the mwarobaini, it may as well surpass the success of the latter tree.
The moringa tree
Meet mzee Samson Kiplimo, he is a farmer in Gambogi area in Vihiga, in Western Kenya. He tells me that he is very fond of the moringa tree since he discovered its benefits some ten years ago.
“I first heard about the moringa tree sometime in the early 2000. I however, did not warm to the idea of planting something that had not been tested by many. In 2002, I decided to plant it while concentrating on my other farming ventures. I used the leaves to treat various illnesses and after success in treating some of the common ailments, I knew it was a good tree,” stated Kiplimo.
“I was able to harvest properly in 2007. The tree can be useful for 3 to 4 years depending on where one has planted it. If planted in the garden, it lasts for 3 years whereas if one plants it on their compound, it can last up to 4 years. Between 2007 and 2011 I have been able to make profits approximately up to shillings 90,000 from the sale of the end products of the tree,” added Kiplimo.
In my recent visit to the several groups in western Kenya, I realised that this must be a powerful tree considering that most of the homesteads have planted it.
He has 3 trees and tells me that AYODEF introduced the tree to him. AYODEF stands for Awareness Youth Development Foundation; a community based rural youth organization involved in community based initiatives and integrated rural development in western Kenya.
Looking at some of the pProducts of the moringa treeackaged products, the tree is said to contain Vitamins A, B, C, and D. It has iron, calcium, proteins, copper, potassium, vitally all nutrients that the body requires for its wellness.
“The tree can also cure a snake bite. When one has been bitten by a snake, they should look for its roots and squeeze the juice on the place bitten. This will reduce the speed of the spread of the poison in the body as they take the victim to the hospital. It has also been of help to the diabetic people, helps control high blood pressure, cures ulcers, and is very effective on acute respiratory infections, anaemia, as well as common illnesses like fever and headaches. It generally strengthens the body’s immune system,” stated Kiplimo.
One is required to take 1 tea spoonful of the powder three times a day. I am informed that some people also prefer to add it to their soups, tea, and vegetables according to their preferences.
Reverend Phyllis Byrd, the Director of the Just Communities at the OAIC heaped praises on the tree. She stated that it’s a sad thing that we prefer foreign products at the expense of the local ones. She had been given the moringa powder which after taking it in her tea, she stated that she felt energised and that such inventions should be lauded.
Mzee Kiplimo stated that he is proud of this agri-business venture and will not stop any time soon. The fact that the tree has enabled him to pay school fees for his children is something worthwhile noting about. His main market is the AYODEF group as well as other people whoRosella Hibiscus plant have discovered the magic of the moringa tree. He also sells the seedlings.
I take note of his efficient record keeping. While interviewing him, he could refer to the exact dates of the transactions for his subsistence farming. Something that I had not seen any other farmer I visited do.
Pastor Jotham Odari who is AYODEF”s operations manager was very proud to see the efficient manner with which Kiplimo’s transactions were recorded. He told me that as part of the capacity building for the famers, they have taught them how to keep records properly in order to realise their exact profits and losses which in turn enables them to improve their farming tremendously.
Mzee Kiplimo is also a fruit farmer; from white support to Chinese apples and white melons.
“All my fruits have a ready market. I sell them in Kiboswa market a few kilometres from Kisumu city. We have many people who prefer Kiboswa market as the produces are fair priced compared to the city. I have a loyal Indian customer whose family has lived in Kisumu since the early 1900’s, Deepesh Pasari and also other people in my community buy my produce,” he stated.
Kiplimo’s children help him after school and mostly on weekends.
“By helping me here and there in the various tasks, they develop basic skills on farming and business as I allow them to keep chicken and rabbits which they sell and make profits. I don’t ask for the money they make as I gather this teaches them responsibility at an early age. This also reduces my burden as they rarely ask me for money for their various activities,” added Kiplimo.
Ezekiel Salamba in his farm
He is grateful to AYODEF for introducing him to the moringa tree and the various capacity building activities he has participated in which has made him a better farmer. He in return also shares new knowledge he acquires with other famers.
Ezekiel Salamba, a neighbour to Kiplimo has also realised that apart from the moringa tree, the Rosella Hibiscus can also be useful. The plant resembles some traditional vegetables and it might even pass as a weed. But not for Mr. Ezekiel.
“The Rosella Hibiscus is a red juicy; plant with some bitterness akin that of a lemon. We were given these plants by AYODEF although many people have not yet taken a keen interest on it. One can make juice from the plant by picking the fruit, washing it properly then squeezing the juice from the fruit. It is very effective especially in cleansing ones system,” he stated.
Ezekiel says that there is a ready market for the product as many people have embraced it and it only takes two months to mature. One can continue to harvest it until the 6th month.
Ezekiel also keeps cattle; goats are his preference.“I have 4 goats currently although I started with only one female, back in 2001. I have taken it severally for mating in the hope that it will give birth to a female kid but I have not been lucky, “he stated.
Farmers have a preference for the female cattle as they seem to be more profitable compared to the male ones.
“If I sell a male goat, I can only raise approximately Shillings 10,000. A female one would be double the price. The trouble with goats is that they require zero-grazing and sometimes grass may not be in plenty. Zero-grazing also ensures that illnesses are kept at bay,” he stated
Ezekiel just like many rural farmers keeps a little bit of everything. He is a sweet potato farmer too.