About Wami River Moringa

 

By Lynn Taylor, March 28th 2019

Wami River Moringa started out with humble beginnings.

When we finally achieved title on our farm in Tanzania, the extent of the damage done to the land by transient, nomadic herdsmen and their cattle was shocking. In addition to desolating overgrazing, so many trees had been chopped down that the erosion was catastrophic. On top of the extreme poverty in the area, this was an ecological, sociological, environmental crisis waiting to happen – another desert in Africa was being born.

I vowed to plant a tree every single day for the rest of my life and to help our smallholder village neighbours do the same. But to do that I needed a truly remarkable tree.

I needed to find a tree that was quick-growing, able to withstand neglect and not need lots of expensive fertilizers and fungicides. It also had to provide some of the poorest people in Africa with an income and not compete with the subsistence crops they were growing for their food. I needed a miracle, right?

In 2017, my son (a teenager at the time) gathered a few Moringa seeds and decided he wanted to plant them. Eager to wrest him away from computer games and endless social media engagement, I gave him a patch in the farm nursery for his project and some old seed trays.

Imagine our surprise and delight when every single one of his seeds germinated. They grew so quickly that they had to be transplanted from the seed trays into a seed bed – all within the space of about ten days! Within three months we had actual trees to plant out that were over a metre tall. He was hooked on growing things, and the start of my passion for Moringa Trees was ignited.

I realised quickly that many of the local villagers had moringa trees growing on their farms. They use the trees as boundary fences because it is so quick-growing and hardy, but they had no market for the seeds, and gave the trees little attention.

Minimal research turned up the miraculous nutritional and medicinal benefits of the moringa tree. The use of the essential oil extracted from moringa seeds dates back centuries and was highly valued in the ancient world, with the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians extracting the oil from moringa seeds for use with perfumes and lotions.

I purchased a small oil press and started experimenting, and in 2019 we built a small moringa oil processing factory on the farm. To complement and increase the output of moringa oil, we have developed an extensive outgrowers’ scheme with our neighbouring smallholder farmers. By providing villagers with sufficient cash incentive to incorporate productive tree crops with their existing food crops, we help smallholder farmers restore tree cover, increase their annual cash income and improve their livelihoods.

Tanzania is currently ranked as having the fifth fastest deforestation crisis in the world. By planting moringa trees, and encouraging and enabling smallholder farmers to see real-time cash benefits from planting trees, we are making a quantifiable, sustainable difference to the ecology of the area. We are no longer at threat of becoming a desert.

Planting a tree a day? – yes, we’ve achieved that. We’ve planted over 4,000 trees on our farm since we owned it (November 2016), some 3,500 of those being moringa trees and the rest hardwood trees indigenous to Tanzania.