From a tiny village, we make world class moringa

Jeanne Ngo Yockbag at the Me Moringa For Life Farm, she is a co-founder and President.

There are few farmers who can synergise vision, passion and purpose. For with passion, farming has more meaning beyond agronomics.

This triad informed the decision to start a Moringa farm for Manfred Schmitt and his wife Jeanne NGO Yockbag. He is the Chairman, CEO and founder Me Moringa For Life farm.

Kenya’s economy is 80 per cent dependent on agriculture. We are a farming nation. Yet, hardly will you find a farmer in Kenya ecstatic about farming beyond the fact that it is a means to livelihood.

And that is what sets Manfred and Jeanne apart. The couple, both expatriates, came to Kenya for vacation about a decade ago.

Superfood of superfoods

“That was the original plan,” Manfred says. “But now we are here; managing an 8 hectare moringa farm in Msambweni.”

Manfred first heard about moringa from his driver while vacationing in Kenya.

“I asked him, ‘What do you take for breakfast?’”

The answer to his question was uninteresting but also thought provoking. ‘I take boiled milk with moringa in it,’ his driver said.

What is moringa? Manfred recalls prodding his mind. Then he did what every exhausted, lethargic, wary and bored tourist does a few weeks into a vacation – drop the conversation and talk about other things that made sense.

But then his neighbour, a specialist in herbal medicine, asked him over to her herbal farm.

“Manfred do you know what this is?” he recalls the neighbour asking.

“It is a moringa tree,” the woman answered as Manfred struggled to wrap his head around it. He would repeatedly hear about moringa in people’s conversations.

His curiosity peaked. He says: “I went on the Internet to read more about this mysterious plant. I read research papers that explained the health benefits of moringa. I learnt that moringa was not just a superfood; that it was a superfood of all superfoods.”

He tried it himself; eating the leaves as vegetables. In two weeks, Manfred says, he was feeling reenergised. The lethargy stopped taunting his joints. His mind felt sharper. And his energy levels peaked again.

The routine consumption of Moringa, it seemed, was the shot in the arm that pain killer tablets couldn’t provide him.

“Initially, I created a small firm with a few trees for my personal use,” Manfred says. However, Manfred’s business instinct kicked in. To him, a retired entrepreneur known back in Germany for his business acumen, it made sense to make moringa available to the rest of the world, and while at it create jobs and make a modest profit.

The couple purchased the 8 acre farm in Msambweni specifically to farm moringa: a green paradise, an earshot away from the rumbling ocean waves bouncing off the beach coast.

Heavy investment

From this paradise Africa’s first international moringa producer has emerged.

When Manfred says moringa is the superfood of superfoods he doesn’t mean it as a hyperbole.

Indeed, research has shown that moringa is the mother lode of healthy nutrition.

Moringa contains all the nine essential amino acids. Such a profile is only possible with animal based foods.

Moringa also contains a plethora of vitamins: vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and calcium. The plant’s leaves are bursting with antioxidants.

Research has shown that moringa lowers blood sugar, regulates blood pressure, and contains antitumor and anti-inflammatory agents.

Simply put, moringa is to healthy living what agriculture is to the Kenyan economy. And Manfred had just discovered it.

Moringa grows wild in many parts of Kenya. It was hence astounding for Manfred when he learnt that the local population didn’t tap into the tree’s benefits.

“It was right there in many people’s backyards. Yet many didn’t even know that it could be used as a vegetable,” Manfred says.

What sets him apart from Kenyans who couldn’t commercialise the magical plant?

“To produce it at the scale at which I produce it you need a lot of money,” he says. You can’t however deny that he possesses a certain definitive drive.

A panoramic view of the couple’s farm reveal perfectly spaced plots with green canopy.  Being an EPZ, the Moringa firm exports 80 per cent of the processed moringa to US and Europe markets.