I want to tell you about a project that I am really proud of, one of my biggest to date. When I first arrived in Madagascar, my fellow economic development volunteers were trained with environment volunteers. They talked all the time about this tree called moringa. I had never heard of it, but I soon learned that it is practically magic in terms of nutrition. High in protein, vitamins, and calcium, the leaves and seeds could do wonders for a country hat mostly lives on rice and deep fried carbs. The moringa tree is gaining popularity throughout Africa, South America, and Asia because it grows in very sandy soil and doesn’t require a lot of water once the tree is already grown. Plus, the tree begins producing leaves and seeds in just a few months, and lives for about 15 years. Yay sustainability!
Back in July, I developed a project plan that would spread moringa throughout the Itasy region, partnered with the Office of National Nutrition and an agricultural training center 11 km west of my town. There will be 6 pilot sites and a production site at the agricultural training center partnered with the French volunteers in my town. We received the $3,000 in USAID funding when the project was accepted in September, and began buying supplies right away. Each pilot is partnered with a school or youth organization, and will have about 15 trees. We just completed the first three-day training to teach the heads of the pilot sites how to grow, process, and utilize the different parts of the tree for different uses. We taught them how to make all kinds of different recipes, salt licks for cattle, how to dry and pound the leaves into a powder to use as a nutritional supplement, and lots of other things!
I was a little nervous to see how a project of this scope. There will be pilots all over the region, and in my experience you have constantly monitor your counterparts to make sure they are following up. So far, I didn’t need to worry. I was so impressed with how engaged and hardworking all of the pilot heads were during the first training. I keep hearing from Eric and Emma about how excited the community members are, and how they are already starting to train other people, even without the help of the professional trainers.
The next step is preparing these three-day trainings at each of the pilot sites and giving seeds to community members. The idea is to get moringa widespread in communities all over, and teach people how to use it in a bunch of different ways. Also, I will be preparing basketball and soccer tournaments at each of the pilot sites. The programs will also involve moringa games and programs, associating fun, fitness, and nutrition together. Excited to keep moving forward!