Moringa oleifera is a new topic for me, I was only introduced to it in the New Year. Before I delved into the topic, I wanted to know how many other people from the industry were in my boat. So, I took to Twitter and The Farming Forum. These were the results:
Thanks to everyone who got involved
Unsurprisingly, the majority of people who answered, had not heard of moringa. Apparently, in 2006 the Discovery Channel aired a documentary on moringa, this was the first time the west had been exposed to it. Hopefully this blog post will teach you something about it.
Let’s start with how I was introduced to it. One day, some friends from Writtle Agricultural College were talking about a friend who studied with them at University and how he had gone back home to Nigeria to grow a commodity which is very lucrative. I wanted to know more about this crop I had never heard of before, so I got in touch with him and as they say, the rest is history. Femi, is the founder of Life of a Tree®. Also knows as ‘Farmer Fem’, I thought I would put five questions to him to get to know moringa. But first, let’s talk about the commodity itself.
Moringa – The Facts
Having written my last blog on how plant based products might be putting dairy farmers out of business, moringa is plant based and often promoted as ‘organic, ‘vegan’, ‘ethical’ and even a ‘superfood’! But, it boasts a range of health benefits:
- High in nutrients and antioxidants: vitamins: A, B, C and E, minerals: iron, calcium, selenium, phosphorus and potassium, essential fatty acids: omega-3 and omega-6, protein, fibre
- Lowers blood sugar levels
- Reduced inflammation
- Maintains cholesterol levels
- Reduces fatigue
- Aids digestion
One hundred grams of dry moringa leaf contains:
- 9 times the protein of yogurt
- 10 times the vitamin A of carrots
- 15 times the potassium of bananas
- 17 times the calcium of milk
- 12 times the vitamin C of oranges
What about the market value? It was reported that the global market amounted to around €363 million in 2016. Looking ahead, this is forecasted to reach €626 million by 2020. Got your attention? Moringa is the source of multiple products such as, tea powder, vegetable oil, cosmetics, nutritional supplements and medicine.
Life of a Tree
Femi Aseru’s farm is located on Ogun state, Nigeria. Farming 15 hectares, Ogun state is home to the production of his products from Life of a Tree. After achieving a degree in BSc Agricultural Business Management, Femi returned to Nigeria to set up his business.
Femi, pictured on the far left, at VegfestUK, Kensington Olympia 2017
1. How were you first introduced to the commodity moringa and what made you start producing it?
I was first introduced to the commodity Moringa while on my way to Zante, Greece, where I went to help my friend harvest and process olive oil. I decided to take the coach from Victoria to Stansted airport and sat beside a nice gentleman who told me he worked with kids as a mentor in return I told him I had just left a job with New Holland Agriculture in Basildon as the precision farming specialists in the UK marketing team and now wanted to start my own business growing culinary and medicinal herbs (Echinacea, Lavender, Clover) in Greece. It was then when he said you must know about Moringa, which I had heard of but had not done any research on. Once I did, I knew it was the perfect crop for Nigeria.
2. How easy is it to grow? What are the ideal conditions?
The Moringa Oleifera tree is quite easy to grow as long as you give it the right conditions to prosper. Moringa likes a fertile rich soil with a consolidated bed, but can grow in the toughest most arid terrain. Moringa is drought, pest and disease tolerant and also loves to be pruned and cut. The best attribute of Moringa’s great attributes is that you only have to plant it once. If maintained properly as it is perennial, the speed of growth is amazing, I have been able to achieve from planting to harvest 60 days of 6-foot trees.
3. What is your most popular product and why do you think moringa isn’t well known within the agricultural sector in the U.K.?
The most popular retail product in our range is ‘Life of a Tree Moringa Slimline Tea’. This is because our organic Moringa tea is the best natural alternative to Green (Matcha) tea, it has all the benefits and more. Life of a Tree organic Moringa tea is high in natural antioxidants which don’t need to be added unlike Green tea. We have no caffeine in our tea but it still gives you that pleasant boost in energy and mental clarity with a palatable taste unlike the bitter caffeinated taste of Green tea. My favourite product is our organic Moringa cold pressed extra virgin oil. Like all our products, we don’t add or take anything from the product, but with the seeds of the oil that are cold pressed, this seed cake has a special attribute which allows it to purify stagnant dirty water naturally because it acts as a coagulant that brings all dirt and bacteria to the bottom of the water and creates a firm base so the 94% purity water can be decanted. This is the basis of our Gofundme Life of a Tree Clean Water Project which provides clean water to our local farming communities using our by-product (not waste) giving us a closed loop production system. Moringa is not well known in the UK agricultural sector because it can’t be grown in our temperate climate condition but if grown in controlled climate e.g. greenhouses it can be a very good crop with a variety of uses and benefits. To name a few, it is great for bio fuel as in burning the stalk and bark since the trees can be harvested 6/7 times a year. Or converting the oil to biodiesel and the by-product makes rich animal feed and good fertiliser.
4. Tell me about your thinking behind your brand “Life of a Tree”
Life of a Tree ® is a brand that is founded on Vegan | Raw | Ethical principles, our slogan is ‘Live Like a Tree’. ‘Live Longer’, this represents the fact that if you live in a symbiotic relationship with nature rather than against, you will also flourish abundantly as nature does. So, with our products we hope to connect our customers back to nature.
5. You mention women empowerment on your website – what are your thoughts on the future for women in agriculture
Women empowerment is very important to us at Life of a Tree because in our rural areas where we farm women are not given much opportunities to farm so we make it our aim to hire and train as many women as we can. I have learnt in life a woman’s touch is always needed since they have the innate ability to care outside of one’s self.
It’s safe to say, you won’t see moringa being exhibited on the trial plots at Cereals anytime soon, but is a good example of a lucrative crop which many farmers will take the opportunity to diversify into if given the opportunity. Before this year I didn’t know the commodity existed, so if you do now, you have learnt something today.
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