Small backyard Moringa orchards offer hope to unemployed Zambians, says Ndola’s Brown Kakumbi. Easily cultivated, the Moringa trees yield a rich harvest of high value powder, oil, food and fodder. Strong international and local demand or Moringa products makes this the right time to plant and Brown has a plan.
The Moringa tree is attracting attention world-wide because of its abundant range of nutrients. High in vitamin A, calcium and protein and rich in vitamin C, iron and potassium it is also said to have immune-boosting and disease fighting properties.
Seen by some as a type of superfood, Moringa enjoys local and international demand for the powder extracted from the plant’s ground leaves.
Significantly, for farmers, Moringa is a source of affordable quality fodder for small-scale commercial beef and dairy sectors.
Brown Kakumbi (70) a retired accountant, from the Zambian Copperbelt town of Ndola, has grown Moringa trees in his backyard. Brown says his backyard plot and a few Moringa tree cuttings got his business started.
He invested in his idea, tended his trees diligently, added value by processing and put some thought into marketing his product. “I didn’t need a lot of money to get started, but I’ve enjoyed a steady income from my Moringa business,” Brown says.
The Kakumbi backyard garden now boasts 25 Moringa trees from which Brown harvests leaves. The powder extracted from dried and pounded leaves is bottled and sold.
“I sell 100g of powdered Moringa for K120,” says the energetic 70-year-old entrepreneur.
Daily orders translate into a constant and reliable income stream.
GOOD DEMAND ON WORLD MARKETS
The global market for Moringa product is estimated to be about US$4 bn with annual projected growth of 9%, driven by demand for nutritional supplements, snack food, beverages and personal care.
Brown’s own growing market is advertised through satisfied customers who pass the word on to their networks of family and friends. Looking to expand his business, Brown is planning to acquire another piece of land.
“I have poured my passion into Moringa tree growing because of the huge potential it has, especially here in Zambia where we have high rates of unemployment. I’m literally growing money on trees and many Zambians can do this,” says Brown.
He believes that his model is easy to replicate and says most households can copy his formula and discover a new income stream, or supplement their existing income.
Brown says that marketing is fairly easy because of the growing demand for Moringa products. He operates through word-of-mouth which works well. “I even get advance orders like this,” he says.
He has joined the popular Facebook page for Zambian farmers, Small-scale Farming (SSF), which has given him a wider customer reach.
Propagation through cuttings is relatively straightforward, says Brown. “But one must follow the steps systematically.”
Select straight mature branches from established trees and cut them off 1m from the tip of the branch, just below the node. After this, plant the branches in pits 50cm wide, 50cm long and 50cm deep, he explains.
“Choose healthy mature trees from which to take your cuttings. It’s always a good idea to take cuttings from several different trees rather than one. This gives your trees a better chance of survival,” he says. Plant at the start of the rainy season or the cool, dry season.
“Put a mound of sand around the cuttings to keep them from rotting and to help with root growth,” he adds.
When the cuttings start sprouting, you will know they have rooted successfully. “With regular watering, cuttings should grow into healthy Moringa trees and provide material for further propagation.”
Brown gives free lessons on propagating cuttings as part of his drive to encourage his fellow countrymen to grow Moringas.
“By doing this I can make a small contribution and hopefully help people take steps towards meaningful financial empowerment.”
ACCESS TO FINANCE
Raising the capital needed for expansion into a large commercial project is the biggest challenge any farmer faces.
“The lack of funding is a major hindrance. We would take advantage of government’s drive to make agriculture the engine room of Zambia’s economic growth,” Brown says.
Despite the high potential market, there is generally little Moringa cultivation and production. This is a lack that Brown hopes to remedy by building a network of producers who would be able to supply markets as demand increases.
“There are businesses in the US and Europe scrambling to secure this resource so that they can incorporate moringa oil and powder into their products. The international demand gives us a major business opportunity.”
Brown envisages a vertically-integrated business through the Moringa value chain. A business in which a farmer network supplies Moringa leaves and seeds; processors extract and bottle the oil, and produce and package the powder, and, marketers sell directly to local and international buyers.
Unlocking the value of this market through a powerful and functional agri-business network like this could offer meaningful support to subsistence farming families. Small-scale commercial farmers could develop their operations into medium- or large-scale commercial operations.
This is a win-win scenario and one that Brown sees as entirely possible.