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Benin tree-planting scheme brings hope in anti-AIDS fight

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  • Benin tree-planting scheme brings hope in anti-AIDS fight

    December 1, 2007

    COME, Benin (AFP) — Anti-AIDS campaigners in the west African state of Benin are using a "tree of life" to help fight against the disease, in a project that provides food, revenue and hope for HIV-positive people.

    As activists mark World Aids Day on December 1, the tree-planting project has been hailed by campaigners and residents alike.

    "The Moringa, it is our new tree of life," said Nicolas Ahouansou, head of Apevivis, an association representing HIV-positive people in Come, 70 kilometres (45 miles) west of the capital, Cotonou.

    "I had never planted a tree in my life" he admitted.

    But for many members of the association, rejected by society or having lost their jobs because of their HIV-positive status, the work had restored their dignity and given them renewed hope, he added.

    French aid agency Medecins du Monde (MDM, Doctors of the World), launched the scheme in 2005 in both Come and in the Ouidah region, 40 kilometres west of the capital.

    Originally from India, the Moringa Oleifera tree also grows in tropical regions in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

    MDM chose the tree because of its remarkable properties, the group's local coordinator, Lise Adjahi Pourteau, explained.

    "The Moringa Olifera is a tree whose nutritional, medicinal and agropastoral virtues are known but under-utilised in Benin, where they are mainly used as hedges," she said.

    "The fight against HIV involves a nutritional component of course," said Porteau. "Because often, the fact that patients start to take antiretrovirals when they are under-nourished can compromise the treatment."

    Antiretroviral drug treatments are designed to stabilise the condition of HIV-positive people and prevent them from developing full-blown AIDS.

    The idea of the tree-cultivation project was to encourage HIV-positive people to take responsibility for their own health by growing something that would help them get the vital nutrition they needed.

    On a plot of land at Kpomasse, 35 kilometres from Come, members of the association keep a careful watch on their crop. But they know that the tree is a robust breed, fast-growing and resistant to drought.

    "It's a magnificent plant," said Valerie, 33, one of the tree cultivators.

    "With the antiretrovirals you get your strength back but many among us have already lost our jobs and we pass our time running after money so we can eat," she said.

    "Growing (them) makes us more independent and you can eat everything in this tree, from the roots to the leaves and even the flowers," she added.

    According to specialists, the leaves of the Moringa are richer in vitamins, minerals and proteins than most vegetables.

    "Everything is good in this tree," said Kendourou Avelssi, a Come traditional doctor. Its virtues, he said, were known even by the ancients.

    Benin's anti-HIV/AIDS programme stresses the need for a balanced and adequate diet in the fight against the illness -- but this is by no means guaranteed in such a poor country.

    Medecins du Monde plans to evaluate what effect the tree's food products have on those who consume it.

    But for Ahouansou the tree already represents renewed hope. His dream, he says, is that "one day, each one of us could have a small parcel of land with Moringa trees."
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  • #2
    Re: Benin tree-planting scheme brings hope in anti-AIDS fight

    What is Moringa ?

    Moringa is a tropical tree with multiple uses and which is resistant to drought. Among the 13 species known, Moringa oleifera is particularly easy to reproduce and its growth is very fast. The numerous economic uses of Moringa oleifera together with its easy propagation have raised growing international interest for this tree which originated from India and which is found in most tropical countries (Africa, Asia and America). Moringa stenopetala and other species from Eastern Africa and Madagascar also have potential even though they have been less exploited so far.

    Moringa is an important food source in many countries. In India, Moringa pods are widely consumed and plantations exist to produce pods for export, fresh and tinned, to overseas consumers. In West Africa, Moringa oleifera leaves are commonly used to make sauces. Moringa stenopetala leaves are the staple food of the Konso people in Ethiopia. Studies have shown Moringa oleifera leaves to be an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and protein: perhaps more than any other tropical vegetable. Many programs use Moringa leaves to fight against malnutrition and its associated diseases (blindness etc.).

    Moringa seeds contain a cationic polyelectrolyte that has proved efficient in water treatment, as a substitute to aluminium sulphate and other flocculent. There is a dual advantage to this property:

    1) it can be used as a locally-produced substitute for imported flocculent, thus reducing expenditure of foreign currency reserves by third world countries;

    2) Moringa flocculent, unlike aluminium sulphate, is completely biodegradable. This aspect may be particularly interesting to developed countries.

    Oil extracted from the seeds is an excellent edible vegetable oil and is also useful within the cosmetics industry. A dual usage of Moringa, as a source of oil and flocculent, is possible, since the seed cake remaining after oil extraction retains the flocculating properties.

    Other applications of Moringa including use as livestock feed, plant growth hormone, green manure, and medicine are currently the subject of various research efforts.
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    • #3
      Re: Benin tree-planting scheme brings hope in anti-AIDS fight

      Field Guide for Emergency Water Treatment with Moringa oleifera

      by Beth Doerr, ECHO Staff, March 2005
      [email protected]


      Using natural materials to clarify water is a technique that has been practiced for centuries and of all the materials that have been used, seeds of the Moringa tree have been found to be one of the most effective. Studies have been conducted since the 1970's to test the effectiveness of Moringa seeds for treating water. These studies have confirmed that the seeds are highly effective in removing suspended particles from water with medium to high levels of turbidity (Moringa solutions are less effective at treating water with a low level of turbidity).


      Moringa oleifera seeds treat water on two levels, acting as both a coagulant as well as an antimicrobial agent. It is generally accepted that Moringa works as a coagulant due to positively charged, water-soluble proteins which bind with negatively charged particles (silt, clay, bacteria, toxins, etc) allowing the resulting “flocs” to settle to the bottom or be removed by filtration. The antimicrobial aspects of Moringa continue to be researched. Findings support recombinant proteins both removing microorganisms by coagulation as well as acting directly as growth inhibitors on the microorganisms. While there is ongoing research being conducted on the nature and characteristics of these components, it is accepted that Moringa treatment will remove 90-99.9% of the impurities in water.

      Water Treatment

      Solutions of Moringa seeds for water treatment may be prepared from either seed kernels or from the solid residue left over after oil extraction (presscake). Moringa seeds, seed kernels or dried presscake can be stored but solutions for treating water should be prepared fresh each time.

      To treat 10 liters of water: Remove the outer coating from mature Moringa seeds and crush the white kernels to obtain a fine powder (do not use discolored seeds). Add 5 ml (1 teaspoon) of powder to 250 ml (1 cup) of clean water and shake for 1 minute to activate the coagulant properties. Filter this solution through a clean cloth into the 10 liters of water to be treated. Stir the water rapidly for at least 1 minute, then slowly (15 to 20 rotations per minute) for 5-10 minutes. Let the water sit without disturbing for at least one hour. After the particles and contaminates have settled, the clear water from the top can be used.

      Dosage Rates:

      Low turbidity NTU<50 1 seed per 4 liters water
      Medium turbidity NTU 50-150 1 seed per 2 liters water
      High turbidity NTU 150-250 1 seed per 1 liter water
      Extreme turbidity NTU >250 2 seeds per 1 liter water

      10 Steps for Household Water Treatment

      1. Collect mature Moringa oleifera seed pods and remove seeds from pods.
      2. Shell seeds (remove seed coat) to obtain clean seed kernels.
      3. Crush seed kernels (using grinder or mortar & pestle) and sift the powder through a screen or small mesh.
      4. Mix fine seed powder with clean water to form a paste. In general, one seed kernel will treat one liter of water.
      5. Mix the paste and 1 cup of clean water into a bottle and shake for 1 minute to form a solution.
      6. Pour this solution through a muslin cloth or fine mesh screen (to remove insoluble materials) into the water to be treated.
      7. Stir treated water rapidly for at least 1 minute and slowly for 5-10 minutes.
      8. Let the water sit without disturbing for 1-2 hours.
      9. When the solid materials have settled to the bottom, the clean water can be carefully poured off.
      10. The clean water can then be filtered or sterilized to make it completely safe for drinking.

      a. Sand Water filters:
      b. Solar Sterilization:
      c. Chlorination: 1-2 drops per liter
      d. Boiling: 5 minutes minimum


      Secondary Infection: The process of shaking and stirring must be followed closely to activate the coagulant properties; if the flocculation process takes too long, there is a risk of secondary bacteria growth during flocculation.

      Recontamination: The process of settling must be followed closely and the clear water should be poured /filtered off for use. The sediment at the bottom contains the impurities so care must be taken to use only the clear water and not allow the sediment to contaminate the cleared water.

      Additional contaminants: Moringa treatment does not remove 100% of water pathogens. It is acceptable for drinking only where people are currently drinking untreated, contaminated water.

      Additional Notes

      Seeds of the Moringa stenopetala have been found to be more effective than the Moringa oleifera for purifying water.

      Some studies have found that the levels of the active components in Moringa seeds were lower in the rainy season suggesting that seeds for water purification should be collected during the dry season.

      For water with medium turbidity levels, 2 trees could supply sufficient seeds for water treatment for a family of five.

      Relevant Websites

      Fuglie, Lowell. 2001. The Miracle Tree: pages 47-48.

      Folkard, Geoff, John Sutherland, and Rod Shaw. 1999. “Water Clarification using Moringa oleifera Seed Coagulant”. Waterlines. Vol 17: pages 109-112.

      Ghebremichael, Kebreab. 2004. “Moringa Seed and Pumice as Alternative Natural Materials for Drinking Water Treatment”. KA Royal Institute of Technology.

      Jahn, Samia. 1984. “Traditional Water Clarification Methods”. Waterlines. Vol 2: pages 27-28.

      Schwarz, Dishna. 2000. “Water Clarification using Moringa”. Gate. W1e.
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