Beating hunger with the 'Miracle Tree'
1 September 2010
South Africa's 2010 Female Entrepreneur of the Year, Mavis Mathabatha, heads up a community project to cultivate the Moringa or "Miracle Tree", the leaves of which have astounding nutritional properties.
The Lammangata Moringa project, based in Tooseng village in the Ga-Mphahlele region of Limpopo province, produces and packages up to 10 000 tons a year of all-natural Moringa Leaf Powder.
The project was launched in March 2009 by community-based organisation Sedikong sa Lerato in partnership with charity organisation Starfish Greathearts Foundation.
The leaves of Moringa oleifera are loaded with essential nutrients, far surpassing the vitamin and mineral content of carrots, spinach, bananas and oranges combined. They also contain more protein and calcium than milk, plus all nine essential amino acids.
The Moringa tree is easily cultivated in semi-arid areas, grows quickly, and is not invasive.
The project, which employs 12 women and five men, also offers Moringa seedlings and education on nutrition, at no cost, to rural communities in the province. In 2009, they disseminated over 500 seedlings to rural households and child-care projects in the area, and brought nutrition education and Moringa awareness to more than 1 000 people.
"I want to make an impact in my area, province and across the country through this project," said Mathabatha, who walked away with the top award and R365 000 in prize money at the Female Entrepreneur of the Year awards ceremony in the Eastern Cape on the weekend.
Mathabatha was the founder of Sedikong sa Lerato, which aims to alleviate hunger and poverty and promote healthy living and a strong sense of self for the orphans and vulnerable children of Tooseng.
According to Mathabatha, using Moringa tree products has reduced malnutrition among over 350 children supported by the organisation.
"Before we started, malnutrition was very prevalent," she says on the Starfish Greathearts Foundation website. "But since we've started adding Moringa to the children's food, we have seen remarkable results – the children no longer suffer from malnutrition."
Speaking after the award ceremony on the weekend, Mathabatha said a 25-hectare Moringa plantation had recently been planned. "This will drastically increase the production and sales of Moringa Leaf Powder, and proceeds from leaf powder sales will generate income to support our child-care initiatives," she said.
SAinfo reporter and BuaNews