CEIN is a community based organisation working in the Kakamega County of western Kenya focusing on agroforestry, reducing poverty and improving health. It has 11 affiliate HIV/AIDS support groups. Kakamega County has a lower HIV/AIDS rate than the national average, but there are still an estimated 64,000 people suffering from HIV/AIDS in the county.
This project aims to help HIV positive groups to plant a total of 25,000 Moringa trees on their farms. The project also aims to diversify agricultural products, increase the beneficiaries’ income and improve the health of the community and beneficiaries. It also aims to increase forest cover by 10%, in line with Kenya Forestry policy which encourages people to use 10% of their land for tree planting.
Moringa tree products have significant health benefits: they can have an antiretroviral effect, boosting the immune system in HIV positive individuals. Eating the leaves can also increase breastmilk in nursing mothers. The leaves are eaten either as a salad or as a vegetable in soups and sauces. They can be dried, powdered and used as a tasty seasoning. Oil can also be extracted from the seeds of dried Moringa fruits. The Moringa products will not only be used by the CEIN affiliate groups, they will also be sold to people in Kakamega to improve the incomes of the project beneficiaries. The Moringa tree is a very fast growing tree; it can grow to three meters in its first year! So we expect to see the first profits this year.
CEIN is training the 35 farmers who lead the 11 affiliate groups, they will then train another 165 farmers on Moringa planting; bringing the total of farmers trained to 200, each of whom will plant 125 tree seedlings. The members of the affiliate groups will not only gain a superfood and cash crop, but will also benefit from increased forest cover which will help with soil conservation, shade and increased rainfall.
The Forest Service is providing extension services, and the Ministry of Health will also be involved in the project once the Moringa are harvested, providing advice on sanitation and packaging before the products are sold. Along with these government ministries, CEIN is also working with the Kenya Forest Research Institute (KEFRI), and ICRAF to implement this project.
The project began with a meeting of CEIN groups to organise a training day run by a KEFRI forester at the Imara Secretarial College. Seedbeds were then sown by each of the farmers using seeds distributed by CEIN and KEFRI. There was also a one day awareness meeting to train the farmers on how to plant, and harvest Moringa trees, and how to transport the products. Tree seedlings have been grown in each of the 11 nurseries and have been potted. They will remain in pots for three months, and then they will be ready for transplanting to the farmers’ land. CEIN and KEFRI staff have been monitoring the growth of seedlings and have advised the farmers on how to best to take care of the seedlings in the tree nurseries.