I have a secret identity. At first glance, I appear to be a mild-mannered Peace Corps volunteer. But in fact, I am a superhero named Moringa Man! I can captivate diverse audiences with a single appearance, my message is more memorable than any NGO, and I fight one of the world’s greatest evils: malnutrition.
Two years ago, I created a superhero character to promote the highly nutritious Moringa oleifera tree in Burkina Faso, where 40% of children under the age of 5 are malnourished. Moringa Man has collaborated with volunteers to create a nutritional information campaign on moringa. This includes guerrilla marketing, a music video, and even a TV appearance. The campaign has proven effective in disseminating its message in a culturally appropriate and humorous manner to non-literate audiences.
Moringa Man and my passion for moringa grew out of my position as a member of the Food Security Committee during my 2 ½ years in Burkina Faso. The committee’s ambitious goal was to improve the food security conditions in Burkina Faso. It turned out moringa was one of the most sustainable ways to combat the problem. Moringa grows locally, is inexpensive, and contains an incredible amount of vitamins, protein, calcium, and potassium. This miracle plant can also thrive in difficult climates including the harsh conditions in the Sahel.
The committee and I created resources so volunteers in all corners of the country could promote the cultivation and consumption of moringa. In addition to Morina Man’s valiant marketing efforts, the committee also took on a huge amount of work. They packaged seeds and created educational guides in local languages (with pictures). These guides described moringa’s nutritional benefits, how to protect it from animals (they love it too!) and how to properly cook moringa to avoid the leeching of important nutrients.
Today, I love seeing moringa becoming more popular in the U.S. and around the world. Higher demand for the product reinforces its importance to the diets of West Africans. Furthermore, the cultivation and sale of moringa provides another income source that is more resilient than many crops.
I still think back fondly upon my time in Burkina when we would sit outside our house and the neighbor kids would stop over to pick fresh leaves from the moringa trees to take home to their mother for dinner. Moringa Man’s has much more work to do, but he’s making a difference.
Guest Post by Peace Corps volunteer turned MBA student James Megivern