By: Tim Tanner
Published: 2010-10-20


Tim Tanner and his family lived on ECHO’s campus for several months early in 2010, in a reciprocal relationship. Interns and staff could learn from the Tanners’ experience, and the Tanners had access to ECHO’s plant, appropriate technology and library resources. Tim shared the following about his experiences promoting use of moringa in Tanzania

I was introduced to ECHO in December of 2005 through Bob and Ellen Hargrave who serve at ECHO. I had a great tour of the facilities, and took full advantage of the seed bank, library and bookstore resources on campus! I had never seen so many appropriate, practical resources and methods available in one place for addressing some of the basic hunger/ development issues among the people I serve in East Africa. I found ECHO’s services quite applicable to my holistic ministry among the unreached Zaramo tribe along the coast of Tanzania in East Africa.

One of the many things I learned about that day at ECHO was the incredible benefit of the moringa tree (Moringa oleifera). I had seen this tree in Tanzania before, but was ignorant of its uses. At the book store I bought the book Moringa, The Miracle Tree to follow up on what I learned that day at ECHO. ECHO also provided me with some Technical Notes about moringa. Armed with this information, I was excited to get back to Tanzania and share what I learned with the Zaramo, working with them to introduce this tree more broadly so that the leaves could be used as a dietary supplement to combat the prevalent malnutrition issues in the area.

Once back in Tanzania, I looked for Moringa oleifera and found it growing randomly in our local village. I confirmed that it was not widely known or used by the Zaramo and only prescribed by witch doctors on a limited basis for medicinal purposes. Common knowledge of moringa’s benefits for daily use was lacking.

First, I took some of the seed pods from local trees and planted the seeds during the short rainy season (late November to early January) in my back yard. I watered my saplings with gray water through the short dry season (late January to March). This was the only time I watered my moringa trees. By the end of March the heavy rains had started and I learned that I had planted the trees too close together. I moved every other tree to my front yard. Most of the transplants survived. By June, when the rains were over, I was harvesting leaves and the trees were starting to flower. By September and October I was harvesting seeds from my own trees. Some of the trees were 15 feet tall already and they were not yet a year old. Soon word spread throughout Zaramo territory that I was growing moringa, and one day an old man showed up with a burlap sack full of moringa seed ready to plant! I have never been short of seed to plant!

Next, I went about harvesting fresh, green leaves from my trees to make into an edible powder to be used as a daily nutritional supplement. At first I tried shade drying the leaves on a large tray in the attic of our house. I found that for my own use, I could grind them into powder in my little coffee grinder plugged into my solar system. This worked fine for my family, but obviously was not reproducible on a large scale. Eventually I taught my neighbor lady how to collect the green leaves and dry them in the shade of the mango trees. Next, using her large mortar and pestle, she would pound them into a fine powder. She would sift the powder through a locally acquired screen to collect only the fine powder, and then re-pound the rest until she was only left with stems that she would toss out. The technique is a very simple, natural, and reproducible way for Zaramo to have moringa powder for their daily use. I would buy the powder from her at 1000 shillings a kilogram. That is about US 80 cents for 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of powder.

The next task was to introduce the use of the powder more broadly into the village as a dietary and medicinal supplement. We already were involved in a medical ministry with a local YWAM doctor who comes to our village for two-day medical clinics once a month. As we encountered people with complications due to malnutrition, we encouraged them to use moringa leaf powder by giving them a jar of moringa powder to start with. As these people saw and felt the benefits of daily use of moringa in their diet, they became the best advertisement of its use. They enthusiastically told others about the use of moringa leaf and how to produce it themselves.

I also learned that Asian Indian people cook and eat the nutritious seed pod while it is still young, so I experimented with a few simple recipes. As I learned how simple it was to use and how good it could taste, I started sharing cooked moringa seed pods with some Zaramo friends. These friends began cooking it at home as well and now the word is spreading. I am hoping to convince more people to use moringa seed pods for food. [See the issue Supplement for a few ideas of how to cook and eat the seed pods.] The beautiful thing about moringa seed pods, for the Zaramo, is that they are ready to harvest from early July to early November. This is the driest part of the dry season, when the least amount of green vegetables is available to eat. God is so good to provide the nutritious moringa pod for food during the hardest time to get food.

Another book I purchased in the ECHO book store on my visit was titled Hand Dug Wells. I noticed during my recent stay at ECHO that this wonderful book is still available. From this book I was able to learn about methods of digging hand dug wells, and to find a suitable option for my location and for the culture within which I work. I have taught people here how to dig and maintain their own cement ringed hand dug wells. There are four of these wells now in our village and, Lord willing, more on the way soon.

The hand dug wells relate to something else I learned from ECHO about moringa, which is that the seed kernel is an excellent settling agent for clarifying water. The seed kernel consists of positively charged proteins. Dust, dirt and most microorganisms [including harmful bacteria] are negatively charged. The dust and other impurities in the water are attracted to the seed particles and settle to the bottom. I simply taught the people to use one seed kernel in about 1.5 or 2 liters of water (depending on how dirty the water looked). I taught the people to peel the dried seeds they were going to use, pound them using their mortar and pestle, add the powder to the bucket of water, and stir. They were to wait about 10 minutes and then stir again. Finally, after waiting about 3 hrs, all the solid particles settled to the bottom and the clean water could be carefully poured out.

There is so much more available at ECHO, and I know I have only hit the tip of the iceberg. I am grateful for several months of reflection, sharing and learning at ECHO in early 2010. I hope to expand my moringa project and introduce the Farming God’s Way [now also called Foundations for Farming] program among the Zaramo upon my return to Tanzania. In the months and years ahead, I look forward to updating you on how these other projects—gleaned from ECHO—are being used by God to bring hope and transform lives among the Zaramo of Tanzania, East Africa!