For the King'ola family of Emali in Kenya, the superfood tree moringa has changed their lives in more ways than one.
Their health is better from the nutrients and medicinal benefits of consuming moringa; they have more income, from selling moringa, to pay for school supplies and fees; and they have been able to contribute moringa to a local collective who are processing it for sale as powder for the local market.
So it makes perfect sense that moringa, which is drought-tolerant and ideal for the semi-arid area of Emali, is know as the "miracle tree".
“All I had ever known about ChildFund was child sponsorship so hearing them talk about farming and farming methods came as a surprise," Mr King'ola says.
"I use fresh moringa leaves and flowers for vegetables for my family and the lower foliage for animal feeds and this has really boosted milk production. My frequent illnesses turned out to be hypertension but using moringa has since reduced it drastically. My family is healthier, and the children’s academic performance has also improved."
In 2018 Mr and Mrs King'ola started working with ChildFund to grow moringa. ChildFund was implementing the moringa farming initiative in Emali through the Agriculture and Dairy Economic Development (ADED) project funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) in New Zealand.
Mr King'ola first heard about moringa through a friend who was successfully growing it through ChildFund in Emali. Initially the fear of venturing into something new stopped him from pursuing the crop for himself, but after some encouraged by ChildFund he was keen to give it a go and he has not looked back.
He previously cultivated maize but due to dry weather conditions in Emali, his annual harvest was low.
“Despite the hard work my family and I put in the farm, each season our harvested of maize could not even sustain my family. I was so disillusioned and resorted to casual jobs in order to support my family."
Through ChildFund, the family received 200 moringa seedlings and training on how to grow moringa. Once the produce from the plants exceed his family's needed, he was able to start selling it. Also, through ChildFund he linked to the Emuka Moringa Farmers’ Cooperative Society where he contributes moringa powder for sale in the area.
Francis forms part of the 128 Emuka cooperative farmers that are currently supplying processed moringa powder and raw moringa seeds to the cooperative for packaging and subsequently sell on behalf of the farmers. He has so far supplied more than 24 kilograms of moringa leaf powder to the cooperative.
What's more, aside form moringa forming part of a regular nutritious diet for his family, the leaves have also proved great fodder for his dairy stock. His dairy cow and goats have gained in weight and milk production has increased from one liter per day to two litres.
‘I can now easily school fees for my children and grandchildren, and they no longer miss school because of lack of school levy. I have also bought four more dairy goats,” adds Francis.
He has also connected water and electricity to his homestead using income from moringa sales.
“My family is healthier and happier. We no longer spend a lot of time and money at the local dispensary because of frequent illnesses.”
The family has 640 plants and plans to increase it to 2,000 to diversify to seeds and eventually venture into moringa oil production.