Moringa oliefera leaves and seeds contain health benefits and nutritional value. It is deemed rich in healthy antioxidants and bioactive plant compounds that help in fighting illnesses such as colds and flu and act as shields against diarrhea, heart ailments, eye, and skin diseases.
Dr. Alice Nakhumicha Muriithi, a horticulturist and a Coordinator for Partnerships and Collaborations at World Bank knows too well of the benefits of this novel plant commonly known as ben oil tree.
“I had a health problem that caused serious inflammation in my body at one time and after taking Moringa oliefera the inflammation went away. My doctor was amazed at how a tree could help with such a problem,” said Dr. Muriithi while delivering a virtual public lecture hosted by JKUAT, Directorate of Research and Innovation.
After realizing that there was no awareness on the benefits of Moringa oliefera in Kenya, Dr. Muriithi decided to collaborate with researchers and learning institutions and carry further research on the use of this tree and in return educate the society on how to grow and utilize this plant.
The public lecture, delivered on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, was titled ‘Innovative use of Moringa oleifera’, and aimed at creating awareness on the use of the plant.
Dr. Muriithi said her collaboration with researchers and learning institutions is aimed at creating a network key in carrying out several food related projects such as inclusion of Moringa oliefera in insect food and feeds.
Some of the ongoing collaborative researches include: inclusion of Moringa oliefera in protein bars; effect of harvesting frequency on Moringa oliefera Lam leaf quality and biomass in Bondo, Kenya; improving the quality of saline water using Moringa oliefera; and effect of Moringa oliefera leaf meal supplementation on layer chicken.
Dr. Muriithi noted that the tree is mainly found in Bondo, Kenya since the area has a warm climate that favors Moringa oliefera growth. Farmers in this region use Moringa oliefera leaves as vegetables and sell its seeds and this has improved their wellbeing and livelihood.
One of the major challenges facing these farmers is the drying of the Moringa oliefera leaves for various use. To tackle this, Dr. Muritthi has delved into portable solar dryer research to ensure high quality dried products.
“The leaves of Moringa oliefera are dried using a solar drier. This is a challenge since a solar drier is not portable and is slow and sometimes farmers require equipment that is portable and fast in order to meet clients’ demands on time,” stated Dr Muriithi.
While thanking Dr. Muriithi for delivering the public lecture, JKUAT Director of Research and Innovations, Dr. John Kinyuru, expressed the need for serious toxicological studies. He encouraged researchers to work together and come up with meaningful findings.
Mr. Gachora Waweru emphasized on the benefit of Moringa oliefera, especially to lactating mothers. He is from the Resources Oriented Development Initiative (RODI), an accredited vocational and technical training Centre in sustainable agriculture, agro-processing, value addition and production of hygiene products.
Mr. Waweru stated the need to continue with research studies on this plant especially in Turkana region where it can be used to control desertification and flooding and can thrive well in this region since it is semi-arid.