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Czech agency sees success in Ethiopia

A Czech project manages to harness the potential of the superfood moringa

After a feasibility study that assessed the potential of the moringa tree for the development of Ethiopian communities and the development and marketing of new products on the Ethiopian and foreign markets, the actual implementation stage of the project was successfully launched with the support of the B2B Program managed by the Czech Development Agency.

The project now directly affects around 50 local residents with education or employment, and others will join their ranks this year after the production and sale of moringa tablets and moringa oil is launched. Thanks to the work of the team led by the implementer Jaromír Novák, the healthy products from the Ethiopian superfood have also already reached the Czech market.

Moringa is a genus of deciduous trees that can grow to a height of up to 20 meters. In both their boiled and raw state, the leaves are a very wholesome food, and they are also dried for periods of scarcity. In Ethiopia, moringa is used mainly in the form of fresh leave as an equivalent to our sauerkraut, cabbage or spinach.

Another reason for its popularity is the fact that it does not need any special care, it grows fast and it can be harvested several times a year. Despite the fact that it has been used in traditional medicine, and knowledge of using its root as a medicine against malaria has been passed down for generations, the beneficial effect that consuming the leaves has on the blood pressure and digestion and its high content of antioxidants and substances that are beneficial to the body were completely unknown to the Ethiopians.

A fundamental change occurred about eight years ago, when articles about moringa started to appear in the media. The “daily bread” of the poor became a “superfood”, and the disdain of rich Ethiopians for moringa disappeared. This was an opportunity for small farmers, as well as international and government organizations, which organized countless training courses, educational courses and provided material or financial support to newly established cooperatives.

“The activities under our mojeMORINGA project that are taking place on the shores of Lake Abaya near the south-eastern city of Arba Minch began in 2015, when we established cooperation with 17 farmers cultivating moringa. After receiving training under the Czech project, the farmers can harness much more of its potential. They can transport or ship properly dried, processed and packaged moringa much further than just the local marketplace, which opens up a much larger consumer market,” says project manager Jaromír Novák, who founded the project together with botanist Petr Němec.

“This, of course, brings profit to families that not only helps to ensure the necessary nutrition, healthcare and education for children, but can also motivate other young people. They can then take up the agricultural and commercial activities of their parents and do not have to leave their homes and look for work in another region or even another country,” Novák added.

Moringa oil already meets all the necessary standards

At present, 40 farmers from two agricultural cooperatives, who are trained in techniques for the proper cultivation, harvesting and processing of moringa, including hygiene and the proper packaging of raw materials, are directly involved in the project. In the next part of the project, which deals with the processing of moringa for various products, a production hall in which moringa oil and moringa tablets will be pressed is now being equipped.

By processing the raw material for these products on the spot, the added value will remain in the region and more jobs will be created for local residents. After production is launched, roughly another 10 young people will be employed, and another 150 farmers are periodically supported in the area through the purchase of moringa leaves and seeds.

“Last year, we managed to provide quality facilities for the production of moringa tablets and moringa oil. Machines were purchased and commissioned and production was launched. The production of moringa oil was launched first. The results are in for all the necessary laboratory analyses proving the excellent quality of the moringa oil and its conformity to all EU standards.” Jaromír Novák said.

“The moringa oil is currently being marketed for sale in the Czech Republic. Work on the design, strategy and marketing for the introduction of the products onto the Ethiopian and European markets is currently underway,” he added. The production of the tablets will begin in the spring.

The project work is carried out according to a timetable, despite the fact that Ethiopia is currently in a period of transformation after its change of government, resulting in civil unrest. The success of the project is also driven by the reliability of the local partners, namely cooperating women’s cooperatives and the project partner Betigil Feleke.

Another benefit is the support provided for the project by the Ethiopian government, which is accommodating the project team by providing land for the cultivation of moringa and leasing production facilities in the premises of the business park in Arba Minch, where innovative moringa products are being produced. This year, the sale of new products in both Ethiopia and Europe should begin in the spirit of the principles of fair trade.

“It’s great that the implementers have also succeeded in kicking off a follow-on investment plan with our support after the feasibility study. The positive impacts of the project include not only the transfer of know-how and the development of technologies for processing agricultural products, but also the creation of new jobs and increased competitiveness on the Ethiopian and foreign markets,” says Ludmila Leškovská, who is in charge of the B2B Program in the Czech Development Agency.

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