Sindh needs more moringa trees to cope with malnutrition, drought
HYDERABAD: Sindh Agriculture University (SAU) Tandojam has recently distributed more than 5,000 seedlings of the nutritious and drought-resistant moringa tree (suhanjana) to different farmers and organisations working in the rain-fed and agriculture areas of the province.
Promoting moringa cultivation, especially in the arid and semi arid zones of Thar and Kachho during the fresh monsoon season, could turn the landscape drought-resistant and help the local populace cope with climate change.
Sindh Agriculture University (SAU) Tandojam vice chancellor Dr Mujeebuddin Sehrai said they have a wide-ranging plan to introduce moringa tree cultivation at mass level, especially in Thar desert and Kohistan to cope with drought and climate change effects.
SAU has aims to involve researchers by strengthening collaboration with local farmers to see the opportunities for sustainable food production in the food-insecure areas. “It is part of a move to promote indigenous trees, which have higher nutritional value and are useful for fodder,” Dr Sehrai told The News.
Moringa tree grows fast and has high nutritional value in all its parts – leaves, pods, seeds, flowers, roots, and even the bark, which provides protein, calcium, minerals, iron, and several important vitamins. This tree does not need much watering and generally grows without fertiliser or any chemical inputs.
The university distributed more than 5,000 seedlings to different farmers and organisations, the VC said, and added, “We are establishing a nursery to produce more seedlings in the university premises this monsoon.” He said initially they grew 5,000 extra saplings for planting along the university pathways. The tree has high tolerance to grow in heat and in any soil type.
Prof Muhammad Ismail Kumbhar, SAU focal person and expert on vegetation, said, “Moringa is one of the indigenous valuable plants, which we are going to promote for food and fodder production. This technology will be transferred to herders, farmers and common citizens to get benefits.”
He said presently various community organisations working in different areas were approaching the university to get the seedlings of this plant. It would be a long-time initiative on the basis of public-private partnership to work with these community organisations. “We also encourage development organisations to further extend cooperation with the university,” he said.
Prof Kumbhar said moringa tree might be a better alternate for the herders of Thar Desert, who migrate annually to the barrage areas for grazing their animals when fodder was short and dryness settled in their native areas.
He lamented the dry spell and the disturbed rain pattern which had depleted many indigenous species of trees and shrubs in the Thar Desert, leaving people in a helpless situation. He encouraged graduates of the university, students, teachers and researchers to work on the moringa tree in collaboration with the local communities. Initially the communities and farmers would plant these trees for their own consumption, but later it could be used for commercial purpose too.
Tharparkar district has already received hundreds of moringa seedlings in different areas in the past and many of those trees have now grown and were benefitting the local communities. However, activists and locals have claimed that excessive use of machinery and tractors was destroying these trees and other valuable plants which were a necessary source of sustenance for the locals.
They also urged the government to plant more moringa trees in districts like Tharparkar, parts of Umerkot, Sanghar, Khairpur, Dadu, Jamshoro and Thatta districts to help locals fight malnutrition, drought, and climate change.
The moringa is also known as the “miracle tree of life” in Africa and other parts of the world where malnutrition and drought both have been a challenge for the communities. The seeds of the moringa were also being used in countries like Ghana to purify water.