Move over, Iron Man. A new kind of “super food” is emerging that promises to save more lives than your high-tech armor ever could.
The Moringa Tree is a plant native to parts of Africa and Asia renowned for its nutritional value – each leaf contains seven times the vitamin C of oranges, four times the vitamin A of carrots, four times the calcium of milk, three times the potassium of bananas and twice the protein of yogurt.
Moringa oleifera, the most widely cultivated species of moringa, is a multipurpose tree native to the Himalayan foothills in northwestern India. According to the ancient Indian medicinal tradition of ayurveda, the leaves of the Moringa tree can prevent 300 diseases – and modern science confirms these claims have credence.
The somewhat tattered-looking tree grows fast, is resistant to drought and almost all of its parts are edible, tasty and highly nutritious – which include leaves, leaf powder, pods, seeds, flowers, roots and bark offering a complement of protein, calcium, minerals, iron and several important vitamins.
Interestingly (and tragically), Moringa grows in subtropical areas where malnutrition is most prevalent – particularly in West Africa. The problem is, the people living in these regions are largely unaware of the nutritional goldmine sitting in their backyards.
An Oakland-based social enterprise called Kuli Kuli has set out to change this through a special nutrition bar made from moringa oleifera. The company says its “Kuli Kuli Bars” are gluten-free, raw and made with just a few simple all-natural ingredients. While low in calories, the bars contain high levels of fiber, protein and vitamins.
“As a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger, I saw firsthand the impact that moringa can have on improving nutrition,” said Lisa Curtis, Kuli Kuli’s Founder and CEO. “We came up with the idea for Kuli Kuli to support women’s cooperatives to grow more moringa to nourish their communities and sustain their efforts by selling a small portion of their harvests in the United States in the form of delicious nutritional bars.”
Kuli Kuli says it hopes to help build awareness of moringa as a nutrient-rich superfood in the United States that can serve as a catalyst to improve nutrition and livelihoods worldwide. While the plant remains virtually unknown in the U.S., it has been well-documented to help fight poverty from in Africa, India, Haiti and other regions suffering from malnutrition.
“As climate change makes rainfall increasingly unpredictable for low-income farmers in the developing world, moringa will become an important tool to help communities around the world take control of their own nutrition,” Curtis added.
The company says it tested the bars at farmers' markets in Oakland with much success. After spending two years developing the bars by hand in a commercial kitchen, Kuli Kuli recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to finance the first official batch, which it plans to begin distributing to U.S. grocery stores while building up its network in West Africa.
As of this writing, the company has already raised over $30,000 – more than halfway to its goal of $50,000.
Currently based in Washington, D.C, <strong>Mike Hower</strong> is a new media journalist and strategic communication professional focused on helping to drive the conversation at the intersection of sustainable business and public policy. To learn more about Mike, visit his blog,<a href="http://climatalk.com/" > ClimaTalk</a>.