Is Moringa a miracle tree?

Nutritional properties, cultivation and processing of Moringa oleifera leaves

The leaves of the “Miracle Tree” Moringa oleifera are becoming more and popular among health-conscious consumers all over the world. The leaves, eaten raw or powdered, are considered to be a novel superfood. In addition, development projects that fight against malnutrition use the leaves as a nutritional supplement. Various organizations and people make claims about the nutritional characteristics of theMoringa leaves. But, are these true? Dasha Gretchikhine – intern at Fair & Sustainable Consulting – dived into the complex matter of Moringa’s nutritional content and its retention throughout cultivation and processing.

The environmental conditions for Moringa cultivation should meet the tree’s requirements to be able to maintain optimal growth and nutrient uptake. Sand to loam soil texture, soil pH between 5.5 and 7.5, temperature range of 25-35°C and other requirements should be maintained for the tree’s growth. Poor cultivation practices can lead to high risks in terms of negatively impacting nutrient uptake and development of the tree as well as the environment. For example, over- and under-watering Moringa can cause root system degradation and soil erosion or lead to a poor nutrient uptake and photosynthesis rate of the tree. Therefore, this report has identified the preferable environmental requirement of the tree, together with the risks and opportunities of using various cultivation practices. One of the advises is to maintain a soil moisture content between 5-28% by applying irrigating practices, such as drip irrigation, that lead to a lower water loss, during the early morning or evening to reduce water evaporation rate.

Table 1: Requirement for an optimal nutrient uptake and retention by a Moringa tree

All processing steps, from harvesting to storing the powder, influence the nutrient composition and food safety of the leaves.The exposure to oxygen, light, heat, and metal contaminants can lead to nutrient denaturation, oxidation, leaching, etc. Preventive measures that can limit nutrient loss are presented in the report such as covering the leaves during harvesting and transportation to limit light exposure, applying freeze drying technique to lower the drying temperature and other. Nevertheless, processing steps that secure a higher nutrient retention do not always meet food safety standards. Room temperature drying, for instance, meets the nutrient stability requirements but does not reach the moisture content standards to prevent microbiological growth.

The research also compared thenutritional content of Moringa leaves with other commonly consumed around the world dark green leafy vegetables such as Amaranthus (Amaranthus spinosus), Cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata), Cocoyam (Colocasia antiquorum), Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), Spinach (Spinacia oleracea), and came to the conclusion that fresh Moringa leaves have overall higher vitamin, mineral, and protein content. The research findings state that Moringa can positively contribute to the daily Recommended Nutrient Intake of an individual; however, the bioavailability and digestibility of the nutrients present in the leaves and powder are still debated upon in the scientific field.

Table 2: Comparison between Moringa and other common dark green leafy vegetables protein content.
Source: USDA, 2019 and National Institute of Nutrition, 2017

In conclusion, the research recommends applying preventive measures to lower the risk of nutrient and product quality loss during cultivation, processing, and storage of Moringa leaves and powder. This, however, can be troublesome for producers in developing countries because of hight cost and time involved in the procurement and application of preventive practices. The technical and financial feasibility as well as the efficacy of advised measures should be field-tested.

Click here to read the full report!

Do you want to learn more about Moringa and how this value chain can be further developed? Contact Jochem Schneemann: jochem.schneemann@fairandsustainable.nl

Improve your reach and impact: the Market Systems Development approach (MSD)!

Fair & Sustainable Consulting trains CBI in use of MSD

Many organizations engaged in international economic development search for ways to efficiently increase the sustainability, impact and scale of their work. F&S shows  that Market Systems Development (MSD) is a method that can deliver such results.  

MSD focuses on creating lasting opportunities and benefits for poor people by tackling the underlying causes in the market system that block producers from improved market accessibility. The major difference between MSD and conventional economic support approaches is that solutions for these constraints are identified in the market. Hence, after a profound analysis of the root causes of the constraints, the private sector is assisted to define and provide a solution, through developing a viable business model that benefits them and their clients.

An MSD Example:

In Ethiopia demand for tomatoes is higher than the supply. Analysis showed that farmers do not apply Good Agricultural Practices, which limits production. A conventional development project would train  farmers, via their associations, to improve their agricultural practices. An MSD project however, will look for a private training company and support them to set up a fitting training and to sell it to farmers’ associations. In this way, many more farmers will benefit from the training and trainings will continue after the project end.

Increasingly, donors, NGOs and governments use MSD, and experience how this approach is effective in creating results, that sustain after a development intervention ends. F&S believes and has proven that the MSD approach is a more effective way to fight poverty, reach scale and sustain impact. F&S supports clients to get acquainted with the MSD approach and to apply MSD in their own development interventions.

Training CBI employees on Market Systems Development

“I have learnt how to build on existing services and find solutions and business models in the market” – participants of the training

The Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI) is also exploring new ways to increase the impact of their support. As part of this, in  November 2019 and March 2020, F&S trained 14 CBI staff. During three days of interactive training, the participants were introduced to the concepts of the MSD approach and concretely designed MSD interventions for their current projects. Through analyzing case studies from their own work, participants got a better and hands-on understanding of MSD and developed their skills to design and implement MSD. They deepened their analysis of the case and even made a new result chain, with the potential to reach more scale and sustained impact.  

“I now understand how I can go from MSD theory to practice” – participants of the training

The participants developed new perspectives on their projects and shared their strategies with each other. During the discussions, participants and trainers shared feedback.

MSD for you as well? F&S provides customized (online) MSD training and support

F&S is able to customize its MSD training modules to your needs and your specific project partners and beneficiaries. We give our trainings online as well, therewith making them accessible to remote participants. Our online and offline trainings include presentations, Q&A sessions, exercises and case studies from your work floor, as well as personal coaching during the assignments.

Interested? Contact Jochem Schneemann or Annelien Meerts

ValueLinks useful tool for identifying economic opportunities: the case of threatened forest landscape in Madagascar

ValueLinks useful tool for identifying economic opportunities: the case of threatened forest landscape in Madagascar

Saro essential oil and raffia fibre prove to have the best economic and forest regeneration potential in the Antanambao forest landscape (Boeny region): processing and exporting companies (also) invest in the production and regeneration of the raffia and essential oil plantations, although still at low rates.

These are the results of a study carried out by Fair & Sustainable Consulting (F&S) for the GIZ Sectoral Programme “International Forest Policy” (SV IWP) in Madagascar. The objectives of the study were :

(a) to select and analyse forest related value chains that have potential to generate revenue for the local population, and

(b) to evaluate the restoration potential of the Antanambao forest landscape that is under threat due to over-exploitation, insufficient replanting, uncontrolled bushfires and grazing.

Photo of final export product of raffia fibers (photo credit: S. Kappers)
Photo of distillation unit of Saro essential oil (photo credit: S. Kappers)

F&S analysed the high-end wood craft market, and the honey, raffia fiber, saro essential oil (Cinnamosma fragrans) and silverpalm seed (Bismarckia nobilis) value chains. The ValueLinks methodology activities consists of mapping actors and their commercial relationships, and an estimation of production costs, added value and revenues for the different value chain operators. The current land use and land interests were also analysed, and a proposal was made for the demarcation of the landscape based on water catchment areas and potentially conflicting land use. This land use analysis showed production – natural resource interdependencies, such as a raffia forest playing a key role in water conservation and water supply to rice fields.

Map with proposed restoration options in the Antanambao forest landscape

The team was led by F&S consultant Jochem Schneemann, with Sophieke Kappers and Gerald Randriambololona as team members.

Jochem : “The ValueLinks selection and analysis tools worked well; to our satisfaction we succeeded to produce fair estimates of the economic and natural resource conservation potential of each value chain in a qualitative and quantitative way. I think this was the first time it was done this way. Developing the infographic was again interesting as we really had to limit ourselves to the most essential information and message.”

GIZ published the full study and the French and English infographics (see also below), which can be downloaded here.

Infographic showing 4 value chains and their potential for landscape restoration and income generation (developed by Fair & Sustainable Consulting, funded by GIZ)

For more information, please contact Jochem Schneemann at jochem.schneemann@fairandsustainable.nl.

Five key questions in basic market research in rural Africa

Over the past year, I did a number of quick market studies in different countries in Africa. I experienced that it is relatively easy to get data, for example with a simple survey tool like KOBO. However, when analyzing the data I encountered a number of challenges that you may recognize.

Wholesale market of tomatoes in Muyinga, Burundi (photo by André Vording)

1 What is the product quality?

Comparing prices between markets A and B seems easy, but are we referring to the same product quality? Often quality is not  clearly defined, so it needs some investigation to find out which quality is referred to.  Also, quality over time is often different: an average tomato in the high season is often of better quality than in the low season.

2 What is the variety of the product? 

For instance, one can take the price of a generic product like potatoes. But one can also look into specific varieties Some varieties of e.g. potatoes, coffee or rice have a much better price than others.

3 What is the weight or volume measurement used?

Ideally, measurements would be in kilograms, however in rural Africa often other measures are used like bowls, buckets, or bags. The size of these measurements is likely to differ between places as well as the extent to which they are filled. This may also vary between the dry and wet season. For some crops, like coffee, it becomes even more complicated as one bag of red berries, dried coffee, washed coffee, green coffee and roasted coffee all have different weights, due to their different  moisture content.

4 At what time of the day do we visit the buyer?

While prices for farmers are likely to be stable during the day, traders often face changing prices during a market day. Prices tend to be higher at the beginning of the day and lower towards the closing of the market. This applies especially to wholesale markets for more perishable products, which traders do not want to take back to their warehouses.  

5. When comparing prices do we take into account (embedded) services provided by the buyer?

Especially the location of collection of the product (e.g. farm gate, warehouse, in town) and payment conditions (e.g. pre-finance, cash payment, delayed payment) will result in different offers even if the price offered is the same.    

So, it is good to keep these issues in mind when gathering price data or comparing prices. This will provide a better basis for calculating profitability in different parts of the value chain.

For more information, please contact andre.vording@fairandsustainable.nl

Gender lecture at Maastricht School of Management

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qy7yn_l59Us

On Thursday 11 July 2019, Fair & Sustainable consultant Jochem Schneemann delivered a guest lecture about the business case of gender interventions at the Maastricht School of Management (MSM). Participants were 30 professionals from 16 countries – who followed the 2-weeks MBA summer course in Global Value Chains and Sustainability. Jochem presented the results of a study last year in Ethiopia where his team assessed the costs and benefits of gender interventions in flower farms.

The study was commissioned by IDH – the Sustainable Trade Initiative, with project partners:  the Ethiopian Horticulture Producers and Exporters Association (EHPEA), the Floriculture Sustainability Initiative (FSI) and Business for Social Responsibility -BSR.
The gender interventions undertaken by the flower farms consisted of:
(1) Establishing gender committees
(2) Review of the Human Resources policy, including code of conduct on gender based violence, a grievance system and a chapter on gender equality
(3) Training of managers, staff and gender committee members on equal rights, gender sensitive management, role & responsibilities of the gender committee, hygiene and sanitation, nutrition and family planning.

One of the outstanding results of gender work in the Ethiopian flower sector was that workers paid more respect to each other, women got more confidence and felt more safe at the work floor. The figure below features the good gender and labour practices (on the left) that were identified at the selected flower farms, and business benefits (on the right).

The relationship between good practices and business benefits

After the presentation the participants discussed about questions, such as:

  • Do you see a gender gap in your sector/company? Can you explain?  Why is there (not) a gap?
  • What is the dominant thinking about gender (gap) in your organization or sector ?
  • What is being done to address gender in your sector? Is there a gender policy/are there gender interventions?  What is your opinion about it? 

It came out that in most organizations, men have the majority of positions at management level, that women often get paid less for the same position. Which is a global phenomenon. There was debate as to whether a quota or fixed percentage of men and women at management positions should be aimed for.

Jochem’s response: “Discussion showed that there are pro’s and con’s for a quota, but this often remains a long debate. More fundamental is that companies ensure a level playing field for all staff with regard to opportunities. This requires companies to identify the capacities and aspirations of their (female and male) employees, and making investments in women, so they can realise their ambition and reach the same level and positions as men.”

Consensus existed that business arguments would make the best chance to convince executives to commit and pay attention to gender equality. Overall, it was a lively debate and open exchange across a large diversity of backgrounds and nationalities. MSM has invited Jochem for another guest lecture on 11th of December 2019.

For more information: jochem.schneemann@fairandsustainable.nl.

F&S trains main actors in mango value chain in Guinea

From 20 to 24 June, Fair & Sustainable Consulting (F&S) gave a training in Kindia (Guinea) for all companies and organizations that are involved in the mango value chain. F&S was invited by the Belgian Development Agency (ENABEL) to give this training. The training is part of their Agricultural Entrepreneurship program,  that aims to improve the competitiveness of entrepreneurs in the mango sector in an inclusive and sustainable way.

During the training, main actors involved in the mango sector were trained to gain a common comprehension of ways to analyse and develop the mango sector. The thirty training participants were divided in three sub-groups who all focused on another market: exports of fresh mango to neighbouring countries, exports of fresh mango to the EU, and dried mango for the domestic market.

The three groups mapped and analysed their value chain, defined a vision for development of their chain, and identified priority actions to be implemented. At the end of the week each group made an action plan with sustainable solution for the development of the sector.

You can read more about these sessions in this article (in French) or contact Annelien Meerts at annelien.meerts@fairandsustainable.nl.