Moringa for Enhanced Livelihoods is a one year project located in the Wa-West District and Wa Municipality in the Upper West of Ghana, an area of significant and increasing land degradation. The consequences of this for the local communities have been tangible – crop yields have decreased and many people are facing food insecurity and malnutrition. ITF’s partner Sungmaale Integrated Herbalists Association (SIHA) aims to build capacity, ensure sufficient food supply and reduce poverty within the local agricultural community. This will be achieved by integrating agroforestry techniques, restoring degraded lands and increasing income by trading moringa, shea butter and honey.
Agroforestry for improved soil quality
Moringa for Enhanced Livelihoods is working with 160 farmers to improve soil quality and crop yields. One of the techniques being taught is alley cropping. Simply put, this involves planting crops between rows of trees. Alley cropping improves the soil structure and health, improves crop yields, sustains species’ habitats and produces biomass. A mix of species will be used, although the project’s focus is Moringa, an efficient and drought resistant tree that can be harvested for a number of useful products.
Moringa, the new “Superfood”
Fresh Moringa leaves are a nutritious vegetable and provide good fodder. Increasingly visible on the international market, Moringa is one of the new ‘Superfoods’ that pop up in health food stores in the UK and further afield. Moringa seeds produce oil which is valued for cosmetics. To capitalise on this, participants in Wa will harvest and dry Moringa leaves and process the seeds with the project’s oil press. The residue, called “seed cake”, will be used as a fertilizer for local agriculture.
Alongside Moringa, SIHA are also processing shea nut butter, which is used in cosmetics, as well as introducing beekeeping to the younger members of the community. Moringa flowers are good pollinators, the end product being a superior quality honey that will provide a source of income for the local community.
Six months in
Significant progress has been made, commencing with the education of local farmers on the benefits of agroforestry in relation to climate change. Seedlings have been planted and preparations are underway for the creation of the pilot Moringa farm. This involves organising the land and restoring the existing nurseries. Furthermore, a drying centre for fresh Moringa leaves has been established in addition to a shea butter processing plant.
Remaining positive despite some early set-backs
ITF has been working with SIHA since 2015. This new programme, “Moringa for Enhanced Livelihoods” encountered a number of early set-backs.
Annual rainfall was particularly heavy, consequently breaching the local dam and destroying some of the newly planted seedlings. Despite this, community and project managers are positive and remain ‘determined to carry on with the project until the plants begin to bear fruits’, says a Youth Leader from Charia village. When the moringa, mango, shea and other tree species mature, they should improve livelihoods in the Wa District, while also restoring the natural environment.
Moringa for Enhanced Livelihoods is funded by the Body Shop Foundation.