On the Spot – Harvesting the Health-Giving Moringa Tree [interview]

New Era journalist at Rundu John
Muyamba interviewed Elizabeth Hilger (EH) the founder of the Theresia’s Orphans and Vulnerable Children Foundation at Mavanze village near Rundu. The one-on-one interview focused on the planned project at Mavanze to plant 80 000 moringa trees that have nutritional and medicinal benefits.

We understand you want to commercialise the moringa project and grow more trees? What does this envisioned project entail? Tell us what this project is all about?

“It’s all about trying to solve the challenges that the centre is facing, one of the main problems being that the foundation is struggling with funds to cater for the number of kids we look after and some of the children have grown and some have failed Grade 10 or are done with Grade 12. We cannot enrol them at various vocational as well as other institutions of higher learning because the centre can’t afford to, so with the expanding of the moringa plantation where we are looking at planting 80 000 trees on four hectares. We might be able to generate income to cater for the demands as well as provide employment to the community in order for them to be able to take care of their children. We can make quite a lot of money if we can come to an agreement with government, especially the Ministry of Health and Social Services to supply them with the end product that can help TB patients as well as fight malnutrition. The plant is rich in nutrients, it helps to fight malnutrition and boosts the immune system, as well as being good for relieving stress and high blood pressure. Farmers can also use it as animal feed as it is good for livestock, particularly goats.”

Where else can you sell moringa products?

“To individuals – we started with a small one-hectare plantation and it is working out well. We marketed the aantages of the plant and the community has been supportive. We can sell to farmers for them to feed their animals with the nutritious moringa, and we can sell to individuals like we are currently doing with the packaged products that the community is buying. We package some in tea bags and containers for people to use with their meals. We are also targeting individuals and various organisations and going through agents who want to buy and resell.”

Where is this bigger project going to be established?

“The plantation will be at the Theresia Foundation at Mavanze south of Rundu, that’s where everything will happen. We have currently started with the pilot project which is going well.”

What support infrastructure would be needed for this project and how is a project of this magnitude going to be funded? Who will fund the project?

“We are looking at millions of Namibian dollars. We will need 21 solar panels, six 10 000-litre water tanks, generators, have to drill boreholes, connect water pipes for the drip irrigation system to name a few and we are still looking for funds from donors and also the government, as this project will provide employment to the unemployed youth and will contribute towards Government’s Vision 2030. We are busy drafting proposals to possibly get funding.”

What prompted you to initiate such a project?

“The main aim of the foundation was to support orphans and vulnerable children of nearby villages, the teenagers who have no hope of furthering their education because of a lack of funds from Mavanze and Sharukwe villages. They are in a community affected by poverty so we are offering a helping hand to the community and we don’t have a permanent donor, that’s why we want to expand our moringa production to sustain the centre.”

We understand the proposed project could also benefit TB patients and government feeding programmes. Can you elaborate and explain how this is going to happen?

“In the country right now we have a problem of malnutrition deaths in children and these are from families who are unemployed or have no source of income to afford nutritious meals. This is the best tree as you can add moringa to your meals, and if TB patients use it, it will boost their immune system while they take their medication. You can add it to their food to give them minerals that their body needs. Among others, moringa contains vitamin A which acts as a shield against eye disease and diarrhoea. Moringa also boosts the immune system of HIV patients.”

We understand you have already approached some ministries with regard to this project? When did you approach these ministries and which ministries are these?

“Last month we invited Petrina Haingura the Deputy Minister of Health and social Services for a visit to see what we are doing at the centre and what we are intending to do, and we are serious as we would like them to support us because that is the ministry that we want to start with, especially its TB patients. We are trying to bring this in different ways under the government’s attention, and see ways how they can assist us as by doing that we are creating employment. At least we are striving for Vision 2030. The deputy minister’s visit was just to bring our activities to her attention. We are busy putting things on paper as a proposal to seek for help and after that we can see where it goes.”

In terms of job creation how many jobs are likely to be created through this project?

“We are looking at 20 permanent jobs and some casual labour.”

How is this project going to benefit the resident community at Mavanze?

“Looking at the current situation, most of the people living at Mavanze as well nearby villages depend on their mahangu fields and this will change the situation if the project kicks off. We will employ the parents of the registered children then they will be able to take care of their kids, build them a proper home and this will change life at the village level and at the same time improve the health of people as they will be using the moringa and this will overally improve their health.”

Where did the seed come from?

“It is a very easy tree to plant, our first trees were bought from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and we have since planted some trees for us to collect seeds.”

How many children are at the Theresia foundation and when did you start this project?

“We started in 2006 and have 111 children. Some of them are now 18 and we are also registered as a welfare organization.”

Source : New Era