Species Name
Moringa oleifera1


Local Name(s)
Aleco (Konsogna), Shiferaw (Amargna), Kalan'gi (Hamer-Bena), Ben-oil tree, cabbage tree, horse-radish tree (English)

General description
A deciduous tree to 10m, usually smaller, pale feathery foliage. M. oleifera originates from India, Arabia and was introduced to Ethiopia long ago. The tree is now naturalized in many parts of southern Ethiopia and has also been tried elsewhere with varying success. Konso people plant M. oleifera around their homesteads and also in the terraced fields.

Edible part(s), preparation methods and palatability
Leaves, tender young capsules, immature seeds, fruits and roots are edible. The young leaves are collected, cooked and eaten like other vegetables. The young roots can be collected and used as a sort of spice. But care should be taken by using the root as a food because the root bark contains poisonous alkaloids. Also the fruits are edible even though they are less important than the leaves. Leaves can easily be dried (in the shade to reduce loss of vitamins) and rubbed over a wire screen to make a powder that can be stored and conveniently added to soups, sauces, food without changing their taste. Green immature seeds can be extracted and eaten like peas, boiled or fried. The flowers that must be cooked, are consumed either mixed with other foods or fried in butter or oil and have been shown to be rich in potassium and calcium. The immature green seed pods are probably the most valued and widely used of all the tree parts. They are generally prepared in a similar fashion to green beans and have a slight asparagus taste. The green peas and surrounding white material can be removed from larger pods and cooked in various ways. The mature seed is about 40% oil. Moringa seed has a fairly soft kernel, so the oil can be extracted by hand using a screw press.

Nutritional value
Leaves contain important amounts of iron and other valuable nutritional elements as well as high protein content. Leaves are also outstanding as a source of vitamin A and C as well as a good source for vitamin B. For a child aged 1-3, a 100g serving of fresh cooked leaves would provide all his daily requirements of calcium, about 75% of his iron needs, as well as important amounts of potassium, B vitamins, copper and all the essential amino acids. 20g of leaves provides a child with all the vitamins A and C he needs. The seed pods are highly nutritious containing all the essential amino acids.

The species originates from Northern India but it is cultivated throughout the tropics, especially in arid areas. It is a very drought resistant and valuable tree. M. oleifera requires well-drained soils with a high water table, but is drought resistant. Occurs at low altitudes in Dry and Moist Kolla agroclimatic zones (500 1,600m).

Propagation Method(s) 
Direct sowing, cuttings, seedlings. 

Sample location (s)
(1)Konso, (2) Humbo & (3) Bedesa (SNNPR); (4) Alduba (Hamer-Bena, South Omo)

M. oleifera is a typical multipurpose tree species with a high economic potential. Besides its leaves' palatability, the tree produces a number of other useful products. The 'Ben-oil' from the seeds keeps its quality and so can lubricate precision machinery like watches. It is also used for salad oil, soap and cosmetics. The ground-up seeds have been successfully used in the Sudan, Burundi and Kenya to clear muddy water - a very valuable property. But leaves and the fruits are also used for medicinal purposes and livestock fodder. Furthermore the tree is used for bee forage, soil conservation, shade, windbreak, live fence, boundary marker and for fibres. 
In Konso the leaves are traded on local markets in bundles offered for 10 cents each.

1Parts of the following description have been taken from Bekele-Tesemma et al., 1993: p. 316/317; Maundu et al., 1999: p. 181; a publication by the 'Deutsch-Aethiopischer Verein' that compiles information about the moringa-family from a variety of sources (see www.deutsch-aethiopischer-verein.de).

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Moringaolifeiratree.jpg (76733 bytes)
Moringaoleiferatree (Humbo)

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Seeds on tree (Humbo)

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Flowers and green seeds (Humbo)

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Konso children on the way home carrying their collected fresh young Moringa oleifera tree leaves

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Farm fields in Konso with intercropped Moringa oleifera trees. Notice the maize in front dried and stunted during the dry spell in 1998.