Sunday, 24 July 2011

MALNUTRITION: Moringa Oleifera 'miracle' tree

Jul 20, 2011 : Mhlaba Memela
A "MIRACLE" tree from India and West Africa has been touted as a solution to the world's malnutrition problem, according to research by a scientist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
The leaves of the Moringa Oleifera tree contains more vitamin A than carrots, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, and more vitamin C than oranges.

And the protein quality in the leaves rivals that of milk and eggs, said Dr Samson Tesfay of the University of KwaZulu- Natal's horticultural science department.
Tesfay, who completed his doctoral thesis last year on avocados as a source of energy and antioxidants, was conducting laboratory tests on Moringa seeds.
The Moringa Oleifera, also called the drumstick tree for its long, thin, triangular seed pods, has been used by Indian people for centuries.
Tesfay said it was unique in that every part of it can be used for beneficial purposes.
"It has medicinal, therapeutic, nutritive and practical uses," he said.
He said the immature seed pods, full of essential amino acids, can also be eaten raw or cooked.
"In parts of Southern and East Africa, Moringa trees have been cultivated for water purification," he said.
But with earth's oil reserves running low, one of the Moringa tree's potential uses, said Tesfay, was as a raw material for the production of bio-fuel.
Tesfay added that the tree, which can tolerate drought and survive in poor, sandy soils, does not require expensive farming methods.
The iLembe district municipality on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast has collaborated with Tesfay on a Moringa plantation project which plans to enlist small-scale emerging farmers to grow the trees and harvest the pods for biodiesel processing.
Tesfay hopes to raise awareness of the nutritional value of the tree to fight malnutrition.

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