World Food Day, celebrated on October 16th, is a worldwide event designed to increase awareness, understanding and informed year-round action to alleviate hunger. The Mercy Ships Food for Life program is also focusing on alleviating hunger by improving nutrition in some of the poorest countries in West Africa.
The moringa tree, which is native to West Africa, is sometimes called the “miracle tree.” Thousands of years ago in India, the special qualities of the moringa tree were discovered and put to use. It may grow as much as 20 feet in one year! The leaves, seeds and flowers are edible and nutritious, and they can be used in a variety of forms, including a wonderful tea. The leaf powder has seven times the vitamin C found in oranges, four times the vitamin A in carrots, three times the iron in spinach, four times the calcium of milk, and three times the potassium of bananas. The powdered leaves – loaded with vitamins, minerals and protein – make a wonderful food supplement. Nursing mothers in Africa use it to increase milk production. In short, it is possible to survive by eating only from the moringa tree.
Research on different crops is conducted at the Mercy Ships International Operations Center in Texas. The climate there is similar to West Africa, thus providing a suitable environment to “test” crops. However, because the moringa tree can only be grown during the summer months, not enough powder could be produced to supply the needs onboard the ship. The additional supply, therefore, comes from the Centre for Ecological Development in Togo, West Africa. This is one of three private organizations partnering with the Mercy Ships Food for Life training program.