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Burgeoning moringa industry could become bigger that cocoa

Moringa stakeholders believe that the industry has the potential to surpass the cocoa industry, as cocoa is used mainly in chocolate and coffee, while the Moringa plant is regarded as a superfood with many uses addressing nutritional deficits, tackling environmental factors such as drought and climate change, and creating opportunities in the cosmeceutical sector.

This sentiment was expressed at the 2019 International Symposium on Moringa (ISM2019) held in Pretoria last week by Rene Munya, the General Secretary of the Moringa Development Association of South Africa (MDASA).

The MDASA, the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), and various universities under the aegis of the International Society for Horticultural Science organised the gathering, which brought together experts and interested parties from all over the world to share best practices and scientific information on the production and many different uses of moringa.

"In 2017, world production of cocoa beans was 5,2 million tons, and cocoa produces only a few products (chocolate, coffee), while Moringa produces a wide range of products including gins, tea, facewashes, lip balms, hair treatments, etc.

"To achieve this, the MDASA has developed a Vision 2030 strategy that includes the establishment of 12 training centres and the training of 200 entrepreneurs, with the expectation that about 100 of them will become agroprocessors," said Munya.

Munya was speaking during a site visit, part of the three-day symposium, to the Lefakong Moringa Farm in Bosplaas, near Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria.

The farm was established in 2015 with the support of the DSI, and 10 000 moringa trees have been planted on an eight hectare plot. Trained young people and women from the Bosplaas community are employed to hand pick and dry the leaves, which are then sent to the ARC, which is the contract manufacturer. The farm produces moringa products that include organic tea bags, capsules, powder, health salt and iced tea. A gin recipe has just been formulated, and will be available soon.

The ARC research team, with funding from the DSI, is active in establishing moringa farms. The analytical laboratory at its facility in Roodeplaat assists moringa farmers to produce quality moringa dry powder that meets international standards and can be exported. The institute also maintains 14 different moringa cultivars.

The award-winning owner of the Lefakong Moringa Farm, Maboang Matlou, said moringa had thrown her and the community a lifeline.

"The farming has enabled us to empower the community by transferring farming skills. I encourage my employees to start their own home gardens. We all have space in our yards and we can use these gardens to feed our families or generate additional income," she said.

The farm employs four full-time staff and there are some part-time employees too.

The DSI's indigenous knowledge-based technology innovation programme has been supporting moringa technologies. Speaking at the official opening of ISM2019, the DSI's Deputy Director-General: Technology Innovation, Mmboneni Muofhe, said that the new White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation, approved earlier this year, included indigenous knowledge as one of the pillars for development.

"As a Department we want to grow the indigenous knowledge area because we are confident that it will create many opportunities. We are of the view that indigenous knowledge will be a mainstay for future health and nutrition solutions, as well as the establishment of small businesses that are crucial for job creation," said Muofhe.

The symposium included an exhibition showcasing local moringa products.

Florratt Cosmetics, a start-up company that uses moringa and herbal extracts to produce skin and hair care products, already employs more than 30 people, mainly women. Owner Mampho Tjabane said her personal experience with moringa gave birth to the idea of Florratt Cosmetics.

The company sources its raw materials from a farm in Limpopo and has plants in Maseru and Johannesburg. According to Tjabane, the company has seen rapid growth, with demand for its products from southern Africa, India, Australia, Mauritius and the United Kingdom.

Prof. Stephanie Burton, Vice-Principal responsible for Research and Postgraduate Education at the of University of Pretoria (UP), addressed the event, said that the theme of the symposium, "The power of moringa in solving global challenges", was well aligned to the approach UP was taking in its academic programmes and research.

"UP recently opened the Future Africa Campus, a flagship institute established to promote research that is relevant to Africa. The broad research themes to be conducted at Future Africa include some of the objectives and the mission of this symposium, such connecting Africa and its people, and sharing the use of technology for new ways of living," she said.

Source: Department: Science and Technology

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