Imagine a fresh leaf that contains seven times as much vitamin C as oranges. When the leaf is dry, it contains half the quantity of the vitamin in oranges.
Imagine also that when fresh, the leaf also contains four times the vitamin A of carrots while the dry one contains 10 times as much of the vitamin in carrots.
Again, the leaf when fresh contains four times the calcium contained in milk and when dry, contains 17 times as much calcium as milk.
In terms of potassium, the same leaf contains three times the quantity of the mineral as banana. If the leaf is dry, the potassium level is 15 times what the banana has.
The leaf contains three quarters of the iron in spinach but when it is dry, the iron content is 25 times of what spinach has.
If you are looking for protein, the quantity contained in the fresh leaf is two times what you get from yoghurt. But when the leaf is dry, it contains as much protein as yoghurt.
Such a leaf must be miraculous, according to experts. Yes, the plant that bears the leaf has actually earned the nickname, miracle tree. Its botanical name is Moringa Oleifera. In Hausa, Moringa is called Zogale; it is called Gawara in Fulani; Okwe oyibo in Igbo and Ewe ile in Yoruba.
According to MoringaOlefera.com, Moringa is a small shrub or tree that can reach 12 metres in height at maturity and can live for up to 20 years.
The website says, ”A short but intense life…A life in the fast lane: Moringa is perhaps the fastest-growing of all trees as it can reach three metres in just 10 months after the seed is planted. It has deep roots, and therefore it can survive in dry regions, and a wide-open crown with a single stem. ”Moringa is a healer, food magician, beauty and beautician, a plant with surprising water purification capabilities, a best friend and humanitarian who works for so little. It is one of the most useful trees on earth.
”Moringa makes a major contribution to human and animal health; in many cases, it can mean the difference between life and death. Absolutely no negative effects to daily consumption of Moringa leaves have ever been reported.”
The site adds that the leaves are believed to have a stabilising effect on blood pressure and glucose levels as they are also used to treat anxiety, diarrhoea and inflammation of the colon, skin infections, scurvy, intestinal parasites and many other conditions.
The Director-General, Raw Materials Research and Development Council, Prof. Peter Onwualu, says if the entire value chain for Moringa is fully developed, it can create over one million jobs and generate over N500bn in revenue for Nigeria.
According to him, people can make a lot of money and a living by cultivating the plant and selling the different parts such as the roots, trunk, seed, leaves, flowers to processors.
This can also be a sure way of poverty alleviation and wealth creation, he says.
Because of the enormous potential of Moringa, RMRDC is encouraging out-growers to go into small-scale plantation of this crop as income generating process for small-scale business in the rural communities.
He says, ”Over the past decade, report findings on the plant have featured in many scientific journals recognising the multi-faceted economic uses of Moringa as a potent and viable resource for combating hunger, malnutrition, poverty and disease.
”The plant has become even more relevant, considering the potential in job/wealth creation and also in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. For this reason, many refer to it as a millennium plant.”
Onwualu adds, ”As nature may have it, Moringa grows and thrives well only in the parts of the world identified with extreme poverty, underdevelopment and malnutrition, e.g. Asia, Africa and Latin America.
”Moringa oil could also be extracted as edible oil and for biodiesel, especially this auspicious time of renewable energy and sustainability.”
The miracle tree presents several business opportunities for discerning investors in agriculture and the agro-allied industry.
For any person that invests in growing the plant, different parts present business opportunities as they can be harvested and marketed.
Apart from growing the tree, processing also offers another avenue for anyone that is interested in exploiting the economic potential of Moringa Oleifera.
Other products that can be processed from the plant include seasoning powder, tea drink, food supplements and medicinal products.
According to Tolani Tolani, ”A preliminary evaluation of the wealth creation potential of Moringa Oleifera shows that incomes and jobs can be created for graduates of agriculture and food science technology by establishing plantations for production of powder and liquid fertilizer from the fresh leaf juice.
”Production figures indicate that a plantation of 200 trees on a plot of 200 to 300 square metres can generate an income of about N100, 000 every 40 to 50 days, after six months of age.”
A number of companies and organisations are already exploiting the economic potential of the plant. These include Formula 10 Herbal Products, Kaduna; Rokarich International, Akure; Vidsa Multiventures Limited, Ibadan; and Grace Fellowship Africa, Biu, Borno.
For those interested only in marketing of Moringa Oleifera products, some of these producers require distributors. For those interested in growing the plant, newly formed Moringa Development Association of Nigeria can be helpful; just like RMRDC.