By Jochem Schneemann
In 2014 The Hunger Project (THP) Benin commissioned FSAS consultant Jochem Schneemann and national consultant Olivier Akele to analyze the potential of the Moringa leaf powder value chain as part of the ‘Moringa for improved nutrition and income generation project’. The research provides clarity about the market potential, the profitability of Moringa production and processing, and about the way the value chain is organized and can be further developed.
Since 2012 The Hunger Project (THP) Benin promotes the use of Moringa leaves to combat malnutrition, because the leaves are known to contain high levels of protein, iron, vitamins and micro nutrients such as zinc. As a result of three consecutive national campaigns with good media coverage, many more people are now aware of the nutritious value of Moringa leaves. More than 50,000 Moringa trees have been planted since then. THP Benin decided to follow up on these developments through the project “Moringa for improved nutrition and income generation”. The aim of this project is to develop a roadmap and long term strategy for the further development of the Moringa sector in Benin. The project is financially supported by the Netherlands Embassy in Cotonou, ICCO and THP Netherlands.
We mapped the value chain actors in Benin, as well as opportunities and constraints, and the profitability. Experiences from other countries were collected as well as international market trends. We used our value chain analysis skills and experience with the GIZ “ValueLinks” tool. The complementarity in knowledge and networks between the local consultant and the FSAS consultant contributed to the results aimed for and was cost effective. Our analysis showed promising results as well as challenges to tackle:
- Thanks to awareness-raising by NGOs, rural and urban consumers value the nutritional richness of the Moringa powder, especially when they suffer certain diseases.
- Consumers feel they cannot rely on the quality of the powder as it varies from one producer to the other.
- An inventory of Moringa plantations by us (National consultant) amounted to a total of 85 ha in Benin in 2014, with an estimated annual production of 14 tons of (dry) leaf powder, representing a retail value of over FCFA 320 million or nearly € 490,000 (at a retail price of FCFA 23/gram ; supermarkets and pharmacies in Cotonou sell 100 gram at FCFA 2300). The actual areas and volumes are expected to be higher as the list is far from complete.
- There is growing demand for good quality Moringa leaf powder. The potential need in Benin is roughly estimated at over 3800 tons of leaf powder per year, considering 4 categories of consumers for which the powder is recommended ‘nutrition wise’. At present it still is a niche market. The product is sold at local markets, shops, and in some supermarkets and pharmacies in Cotonou and other large towns in Benin. (A similar trend is being observed in other African countries).
- The value chain is not organized well yet and still depends very much on NGOs that produce and sell the powder (some at a subsidized price) at local markets, small shops, health centers and hospitals.
- Indications show that profitability is (rather) good at the level of Moringa nurseries, producers of fresh leaves, distributors and retailers of the powder. At processors level the large amount of manual labor and the drying technology render the activity expensive: with the current technology this step in the chain is breaking even or sometimes making a loss.
- (Too) few commercial companies have invested in Moringa so far. One infant food company was reported to do research on Moringa leaf powder as food supplement.
- Women do most of the work in the value chain, but they most often do not own the land or the generated income.
- One of the weaknesses is the lack of standard (hygienic) procedures of the processors, which is mainly due to a lack of technology, entrepreneurship and scale.
We recommended the value chain actors and supporters:
- For combatting malnutrition in rural areas, consumption of fresh leaves (in sauces, porridge, etc) from Moringa trees in their backyard is probably the most direct, cheap and effective solution.
- Articulate the business case of the Moringa sector clearly and organize a panel of settled entrepreneurs to give their opinion on the business proposal and opportunity, including the conditions for success
- Seek committed entrepreneurs who are willing to invest in the Moringa value chain; assist young entrepreneurs to become Moringa producers and processors.
- Build a multi annual Moringa partnership with private sector and value chain support organizations with the aim to:
- adopt a system approach towards development of the value chain
- establish a national standard and quality control system for the production and processing of Moringa leaf powder
- facilitate introduction and application of appropriate technology in processing (cost reduction)
During a workshop in December in Cotonou we presented our results of the value chain analysis and mapping to 35 stakeholders from the private sector, civil society and the government. We also explained and discussed the characteristics of the value chain approach, the roles of value chain actors, service providers and of a facilitator.
The ‘Agri-hub’ Benin and THP as a result of our work decided to initiate a platform for further exchange on the Moringa Value Chain Development on the agri-hub’s website.
Mr. Pascal Djohossou , director of THP Benin, declared his satisfaction with the progress made: “the study has made clear the potential of Moringa , but also the constraints that need to be overcome. The outcomes will help us to decide on a roadmap for the development of the value chain with the aim to improve nutrition and income generation in Benin.”
We are satisfied with these preliminary outcomes and we will be glad to discuss next steps for Moringa sector development in Benin as well as in other countries.
Your suggestions or comments after reading this blog are most welcome.
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