Tapping the benefits of moringa farming

[Jennipher Wachie, Standard]

In the heart of the sun-baked Makueni County, where the earth breathes warmth all year round, stands a grove of emerald sentinels – the moringa trees. 

Here, Gilbert Mutuku labours in the heat of the day, optimistic about finding a market for the highly sought-after moringa tree products. In Kenya, the potential of moringa is yet to be fully tapped. Moringa is native to India and is mainly used as food and medicine. Often described as a wonder tree, the fast-growing, drought-resistant plant can grow to a height of 12 meters at the maturity stage and has a lifespan of over 20 years.  According to botanical experts, moringa leaves are rich in nutrients and can be used fresh or dried for teas, salads, or cooking. Seeds can be pressed for oil. Pods are edible and can be cooked like green beans.  Cultivating moringa trees can be a rewarding endeavour as they are known for their nutritional value and various uses. Here is a general guide on how to farm moringa trees.  Moringa trees prefer warm temperatures and are sensitive to frost. They thrive in tropical and subtropical climates. Ideally, the temperature should be between 25°C to 35°C. However, moringa can tolerate a broad range of temperatures.  Moringa trees are sun-loving plants and require plenty of sunlight for optimal growth. They should receive at least six hours of direct sunlight daily.  

Moringa trees are adaptable to various soil types, but they thrive in well-drained soils. The ideal pH range is 6.3-7.0, but moringa can tolerate a wider pH range. 

“I would advise beginners to work with the Kenya Forest Services to provide extension services and the Kenya Forest Research Institute (KEFRI) for seeds and seedlings,” says Mutuku.  Moringa seeds sell at an average of Sh1,500 per kilo from KEFRI. The seeds should be soaked in water for a period of 24 hours to soften the husks and once sowed they germinate in five to 10 days.  Seedlings can be transplanted once grown to a height of one foot. In several private nurseries, seedlings cost between Sh50 and Sh100, depending on the age of the tree.  “You can establish your nursery and sell seedlings as well to make extra cash,” says Mutuku.

Plant seeds or seedlings at least three feet apart to allow for proper growth. Provide regular watering to establish young trees. Once established, moringa is drought-tolerant. Ensure proper drainage to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to root rot.  Incorporate well-rotted organic matter into the soil before planting.  “Moringa trees are not heavy feeders, but you can use a balanced fertiliser during the growing season,” notes Mutuku.  Regular pruning can encourage bushier growth and more leaf production. Pinch off the terminal bud to encourage lateral branching. 

Moringa trees are relatively resistant to pests and diseases, but they are not immune. Regular monitoring and the use of natural pest control methods, such as neem oil, can help manage potential issues. Keep an eye out for pests like aphids and caterpillars. Moringa trees are relatively resistant to diseases, but good hygiene practices are essential. Moringa leaves are typically ready for harvest within three to six months after planting. Demand for moringa products, especially moringa powder has increased due to its famed nutritional and medicinal value. A 50-gramme tin of the powder retails at Sh150. 

Want to get latest farming tips and videos?
Join Us