Coming Soon to Prolit Village: Moringa and Amarant

In May 2010, MaD launched its nutrition project and announced our plan to cultivate and ultimately transplant two amazing plants – Moringa and Amaranth – to the rural communities that we work with. Over the past few months we have been nurturing young Moringa trees in our organic garden at MaD Base Camp. When they are young, Moringa trees are incredibly fickle and are extremely sensitive to moisture levels (though once established, they are extremely resilient). As a result, it’s no small feat seeing these plants from seeds through to established trees. Thanks to the expertise of our Khmer team, however, our Moringa nursery is now bursting with beautiful, green Moringa leaves ready to be transplanted, and our Amaranth seedlings are slowly starting to sprout.

The initial concept for this project was developed in response to the people of Prolit’s identification of malnutrition as one of their greatest concerns during preliminary needs assessments, and the details of the project have subsequently been refined through informal discussions with key members of the community. As a continuation of this community-led development process, last week MaD held a village-wide meeting in Prolit to announce that, after a long rainy season, we are finally ready to begin transplanting Moringa and Amaranth.

Our General Manager Songhy led a boisterous discussion about the community’s experience with Moringa and Amaranth, the nutritional benefits of the plants, ideas about how the crops will be transplanted to the village, and much more. We solicited feedback on these plans and asked the villagers to voice their comments and suggestions. What started as a relatively small meeting of 20 or so families quickly ballooned into a much larger gathering, as people in the area were drawn in to the community centre by the discussion emanating from it and families from the outer reaches of the village slowly made their way over to join us. The families who attended the meeting were extremely excited by the prospect of having consistent and sustainable access to these plants and incorporating them into their families’ diets!

Malnutrition is a significant problem in Cambodia at large, with 26% of the population suffering from it and 45% of children experiencing stunting as a result. We see the signs of malnutrition on a daily basis in Prolit Village: dry flaking skin, hair that is losing its pigment, chronic fatigue, children with distended bellies. Parents and grandparents in Prolit Village know the human toll that malnutrition takes. The enthusiasm of the villagers during last week’s introductory meeting suggests they are committed to relieving their children of that burden and ultimately eradicating the scourge of malnutrition in their community. With the array of vitamins and amino acids in Moringa and Amaranth, this project is well-positioned to make key strides toward achieving that goal.

57 families – virtually all of those who attended the meeting – have expressed interest in receiving Moringa trees and Amaranth and have agreed to undertake this nutrition project with us. In the next few weeks, we will be starting the process of transplanting the crops to these families’ homes and working with them to learn how to prune, harvest and re-plant the crops for maximum benefit. Meanwhile, we will work together with the community on an ongoing basis to share ideas about how to incorporate the delicious foods these plants produce into traditional Cambodian recipes!

We are super-excited to soon have these plants – and the people eating them – flourishing in Prolit Village very soon. Stay tuned to this space and ourfacebook page for updates!

-Max Laskin and Alex Fidler-Wener