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April 15, 2008

Moringa agro-forestry catches on in Kenya

When food crops failed to do well on her two acre farm, Beldine Anyuka resorted to the renowned moringa herbal tree.

Mrs Anyuka started growing the trees on her farm in
Kenya's Bondo district in 1995 and 13 years down the line she is enjoying the fruits of the change.

Her fortunes changed after the Kenya Horticultural Development Program (KHDP) started supporting groups to market the crop with the assistance of the United States International Development Agency (USAID).

She joined the Usigu Bondo Kwach (USIBOKWA) moringa development group in 2003. With the new marketing channel, farmers can make up to Sh13, 000 ($208) from an acre of the trees at a production cost of Sh1,395 during the first year. The income grows to Sh60,000 by the fourth year of harvesting.

The trees have become popular because they can be intercropped with other plants, control soil erosion and are drought resistant. The tree has been approved by KEMRI and can be used for both human and animal consumption. Oil extracted from its seeds is used for manufacture of lotions and perfumes. “There is nothing that goes to waste,” says Mrs Anyuka.

Medical practitioners have also recommended the tree to sufferers of HIV/Aids and skin diseases. The products of the tree-powder are found in some shops and markets within Kisumu at relatively low prices. A 500g packet of the powder costs Sh100 and lasts a week. HIV/Aids patients are advised to mix one tea spoon in either tea or porridge three times a day, says Ms Agnes Labala- a herbalist.

The tree attains a height of 2.5 metres after 3 months but with better management it can grow to 5 metres.

Experts in the horticulture industry have said that there is an acute shortage of Moringa seedlings worldwide. The seeds are also processed at Earthoil Company in Athi River for the extraction of oil and powder among other products.

KHDP is presently offering training to several groups of farmers in western Kenya on production techniques that would raise yields and income. It supports the growth of moringa in Nyanza, Western and Coast provinces under that mandate.

Business Daily Africa

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