CSW Plants “Miracle Trees” in Africa

( [email protected] ) Dec 08, 2003 11:44 AM EST

DAKAR, Senegal — The Church World Service – the humanitarian arm of the U.S. National Council of Churches, planted a million “miracle trees” in Africa in hopes of assisting the fight against HIV/AIDS, poverty and malnutrition.

Studies shown under the CWS and Alternative Action for African Development research team showed that the local moringa tree held invaluable assets as a sustainable solution to malnutrition, especially among infants, children and mothers. The tree was also found to potentially build immune systems – an important factor in treating AIDS.

The “miracle tree,” which comes to full leaf at the end of the dry season, is especially valuable for being drought resistant and fast growing. The leaves, leaf powder, pods, seeds, flowers, roots and bark are edible, and other parts of the tree can be used for animal feed, domestic cleaners, perfume, dye, fertilizer, medicine, water clarification, rope fiber and as an agent for tanning hides.

"It is miraculous that one single tree can offer so many uses for people," said Lowell Fuglie, head of CWS’s West Africa regional office.

The moringa tree is also packed with essential nutrients; the edible leaves and pods have twice the calcium as milk and are rich in iron and potassium. It holds four times the amount of vitamin A as in carrots – making it a promising agent against blindness.

"In the Third World, there are hundreds — thousands — of people who go blind every year for lack of vitamin A,” said Fuglie.

The nation of Senegal alongside with the CSW began promoting moringa as part of the national diet. Health workers and representatives of other community and local non-governmental organizations in areas of the most severe malnutrition are being trained in its benefits.

The organization has promoted similar projects in Burkina Faso, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali and Niger, where mothers, children, and other members of various communities are benefiting from eating the leaves, seeds and pods of the moringa tree.

Church World Service is supported by 36 U.S. denominations and works in partnership with indigenous organizations in more than 80 countries worldwide.