In this project, we are building two self-sustaining Moringa processing plants at Maanzoni and Ngangani primary schools in Kenya. The plants will use existing composting facilities at the schools to provide a circular source of production and, therefore, income for the school and parents employed to manage the processing facilities.
A resilient plant
The Moringa is referred to as the "never die" plant in Africa. It thrives no matter how challenging the environment and soils are. Moringa is known to produce fruit even during drought conditions, and it rebuilds quickly after being cut. They thrive in areas with access to modern irrigation methods and compost fertilisers. Growing quickly, they gain as much as 10 feet per year in peak conditions, and they are naturally resistant to many types of insects. These characteristics, combined with robust nutritional/medicinal attributes, make the Moringa a highly economical and low-maintenance crop helping to fight disease, starvation, and malnutrition. In addition, the leaves can be harvested frequently, providing a steady flow of sustenance. It starts with compost.
Our partner Kenya Connect runs an innovative composting toilet programme where they install compost toilets in schools across rural Kenya. Compost toilets are far more hygienic, safer and sustainable than the typically used pit latrine.
Besides the benefits mentioned above, a great advantage of using compost toilets is the compost can then be processed and used to plant food crops.
Turning compost into commerce
Kenya Connect is currently aiming to launch a Moringa Tree programme to further support primary schools in their network with an opportunity to develop sustainable income sources.
Two of Kenya Connect's 62 partner schools, Maanzoni and Ngangani primary schools, have been identified as suitable schools to pilot a Moringa Tree program because they have composting toilets and access to water.
Funds will be used to fence plots for Moringa farming, construct drying sheds, provide training on Moringa processing, purchase gardening equipment and build drip irrigation systems at the schools.
In addition to growing and processing the Moringa Trees at the two schools, additional trees will be planted at Kenya Connect's Learning Center as a demonstration project for schools visiting the centre. It will give students from their 60 other partner schools and members of the community an opportunity to learn about the Moringa project.
Once the plants are fully operational, they will allow large numbers of students to participate in watering and monitoring the trees. As the trees mature, the schools will hire parents to work with the students to harvest the crop. They will also process the leaves in preparation for sale.
A company in Nairobi is willing to buy the Moringa that the schools produce at a fair price, which will be a tremendous economic vehicle for the schools and their students.
Parents and teachers from Maanzoni and Ngangani Primary Schools, along with Kenya Connect staff, recently gathered for a one-day training workshop to gain knowledge about the benefits of Moringa products.
Led by an expert facilitator from the Emuka Farmers Cooperative, participants actively participated in interactive discussions centred around planting methods, pruning techniques as well as drying of the leaves and flowers.
There were demonstrations on proper plant spacing to ensure abundant harvests followed by packaging and marketing tips while emphasizing why this nutrient-rich superfood should be part of everyone's daily diet.
Here are some images from the demonstration day.
This week, we successfully installed two 5000 litre water tanks at both primary schools.
The tanks will collect and store rainwater 💧 from the classroom roofs and the rationed community borehole water. This water will be used to water Moringa plants on the farms during the dry seasons to keep the Moringa green.
We also completed the construction of a solar dryer used to dry the Moringa produced on the farm. The dryer can also dry other produce like mangoes 🥭, vegetables 🥦 and pigeon peas during times of plenty and store them to be consumed during the dry season. This will guarantee food security and increase the dried products' value at the market.
Your contributions have resulted in food security and business for these primary schools. I'm proud of my role in this, and I hope you are too. I believe the good you put out in the world comes back around 🌍.
For further engagement of students in the schools with Moringa, two Moringa Clubs have been established to take care of the Moringa trees through mulching, watering and applying compost when needed. Students are also learning about the importance and use of Moringa as a nutritional product and source of food. They are learning about the various parts of the plant and how they are used. In addition, they are learning about the environmental impact of planting more trees and why it is important from a climate perspective.
I will apply water and compost to the Moringa plant so that it can be strong because moringa seeds can suppress a headache." - Muuo, Moringa club member.
Here's an update from James - the project manager on the ground in Kenya.
The Moringa trees have been progressing well, with some dried-up trees replaced. The custodians and students have been doing a great job in ensuring the Moringa trees flourish through watering, mulching, and applying manure. Being a dry season, we are experiencing a water shortage; however, we are using the available water to sustain the trees.
Plans are underway to construct a solar dryer, and we recently consulted with the Emuka Farmers Cooperative to learn more about building our solar dryer. It was a successful visit, and we also discussed partnering in helping to process and sell our product. Since some of our trees are close to harvesting, we expect to build the dryer within the next month.
The community has been mobilized to get involved by providing sand and water for the water tanks' base as a way to create ownership. Parents are delivering the sand, and the school will provide water. Kenya Connect will provide the labour needed to install the water tanks and the gutters to collect the rainwater.
"I am a proud parent of Maanzoni PS benefitting from this Moringa project, which is why I brought sand to be part of the project. I believe it will support the compost toilet my girl uses daily in school." - Mukula, parent.
The number of saplings that have been planted at the three locations is as follows:
Ngangani School: 411
Maanzoni School: 421
Learning centre: 737
Despite being planted simultaneously, the moringa growth rate has not been uniform in the three locations. This has been attributed to several factors.
Type of water being used
The ground team noticed that in the Moringa at Ngangani, where the water has a lot of calcium, the growth rate has been low compared to other locations where water has less calcium, even though the water is salty. Upon realizing this, the school administration offered some fresh drinking water from a tank for watering Moringa to establish whether there would be changes.
Applying more organic manure from compost toilets will provide more nutrients to the most infertile soils within the farms. The big trees close to the moringa groves have also affected the growth rate through shading, and the school administration is making arrangements to prune the trees to allow moringa trees to thrive freely.
The ground team also noticed that some insects were chopping the tip of the moringa tree since the plant is the only green plant around since the dry season is approaching, and most trees are shedding leaves gradually. Therefore, measures to use a natural or organic concoction are underway to control the spread of the insects.
Although some challenges affect the plant, it is still thriving with the available resources, and some leaves are ready for harvesting.
To make the watering process more efficient. A water irrigation system is being installed at the learning centre site.
The ground team is purchasing two more water tanks so they can do the same at the primary school farms, but for now, water from a solar-powered communal borehole is used to water plants at the schools using a hosepipe.
Moringa leaves are so nutritious and when mixed with some other greens and a little piece of meat makes a sweet and rich vegetable food. Actually I know several people who take Moringa leaves as a vegetable.- Muinde, Parent
Some good news! All three moringa farm sites have been fully fenced and prepared for planting. Today locals, school custodians and students have begun planting and watering the Moringa seeds.
"Moringa trees are golden trees with so many medicinal benefits, and as a custodian and a parent, I am going to work to ensure that we get the best out of this Moringa project. That's why most of the time you find me here at the farm watering and weeding."- Anna, Ngangani School custodian.
"I am very much willing to allocate you a group of students to be part of this Moringa project so that it can be a learning opportunity for mathematics and environment lessons." - Anderson Muinde, Headteacher at Maanzoni School.
Fencing has officially concluded, and locals have worked diligently to prepare the landing for planting.
This project is officially underway as the ground team has received funds in Kenya, and fences are now being erected at both primary schools and the learning centre.