By Grace Wekesa
Moringa tree, which grows in Baringo and Mombasa as an ordinary shrub, has become a green gold for farmers in Vihiga.
The tree has become so valuable that farmers in Vihiga now call it a miracle crop because a kilogram of powder extracted from its dry leaves earns a farmer Sh1,000.
Zepha Ombuidu, a farmer in Tigoi area of Vihiga District, first planted the tree in 2001, when it was introduced, and now earns Sh10,000 from it per week.
Ombuidu noted the tree whose origin is Japan has many uses making it a wonder plant.
“The leaves are ground and sold as powder. The powder is used to make medicinal and beauty products,” he explained.
Vihiga Agricultural Extension Officer, Walter Musoga, said seeds of the tree could have been brought to the Kenyan coast by strong sea waves from the Far East. From the coast, the seeds could have been blown by wind or taken to Baringo by birds.
Musoga said the Ministry of Agriculture has teamed up with farmers to popularise the tree in Western Kenya.
“This tree can be grown from its stems or seeds and performs well in sandy and loamy soils,” he stated.
Farmers prefer growing the tree from the seeds, which takes eight months to mature. It can also be intercropped with maize and groundnuts. “Most farmers are intercropping the tree with other crops and it takes less than a year to mature,’’ said Musoga.
John Hamisi, another farmer said once enough raw material is available; he would seek funds from donors and financial institutions to start a fully pledged industry to process enough products for local and international markets.