Moringa Stenopetala: Potential in the Somali Region

I was just in the Somali region of Ethiopia – traveling from Awassa through Negelle Borano, Filtu and then on to Dolo Odo, about 2.5 km from the border of Somalia. You know, it’s only a simple footbridge that separates Somalia from Ethiopia…wait, wait, that’s a story for another time, and venue.

I went to the Somali region to scour the landscape for moringa stenopetala trees. Unfortunately, the only place I noticed any moringa stenopetala trees was inside a fenced compound in Filtu. A development worker, who was passing through, told me these trees were planted as forage for the livestock, but I was unable to further verify this claim.

It was encouraging, at least, to see that the trees are capable of growing in the Somali region, which averages about 300mm/ year of rain.  Moringa is a hardy, drought resistant tree, whose leaves are believed to be one of the world’s most nutritious vegetables.

According to Trees for Life (, gram for gram, dried moringa oleifera leaves contain 10.5X the amount of Vitamin A as carrots, 16.5X the calcium of milk, 15X the potassium of bananas, 8.5X the amount of protein in yogurt, and half as much Vitamin C as an orange. Moringa stenopetala, the variety native to southern Ethiopia, has not been as extensively tested as moringa oleifera, but is believed to be quite comparable nutritionally. The leaf powder can be used to boost general nutrition and immune systems, treat malnutrition in infants, and it also increases lactation in nursing mothers.

Furthermore, the leaves and stems provide highly nutritious forage for livestock. When moringa constitutes 45% of forage, studies have shown a 30% increase in weight gain among beef cattle and at least that level of increase in milk production of dairy cattle. [1] [2]

It seems there is potential to experiment with moringa stenopetala seedlings in the Somali region, to be used for both livestock forage and also to treat mal-nutrition during periods of drought or extended dry seasons.

In Konso, a town in the southern part of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region, the locals intercrop their fields with moringa stenopetala and eat the leaves on a daily basis. The intercropping increases biodiversity, and the flowers on the moringa stenopetala trees also attract colonies of bees. The Konso people also use these fast growing and hardy trees to terrace their hillsides, thus preventing erosion and preserving the fertility of their fields.

If only more regions throughout Ethiopia, and the world for that matter, would adopt the advanced principles utilized by what some nationals consider the ‘primitive’ people of Konso. I would suggest the people of Konso are highly advanced in their knowledge of land management, nutrition, health and sustainability. These same practices can be put forth throughout Ethiopia in elevations below 1800m, and indeed have potential to positively impact the Somali region.

Awassa, Ethiopia

A few pictures from this trip will be posted shortly to Lamp Post Photos (link at the right).

[1] ‘Effect of different levels of foliage of Moringa oleifera to creole dairy cows on intake, digestibility, milk production and composition’ by Nadir Reyes Sanchez, Eva Sporndly, and Inger Ledin. Livestock science, 9 September 2005.

[2] ‘The Potential of Moringa Oleifera for Agricultural and Industrial Uses’ by Foidl N., Makar H.P.S, and Becker K. Nicarugua, 2005.

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