Gesho, jatropha and moringa all contribute immensely to the social, economic and environmental development that we are fighting for. We think they’re super interesting and want to tell you a little bit about them.
In Ethiopia, we will soon begin planting gešo (Rhamnus prinoides), a widely cultivated plant that has a place in society for a plethora of reasons. Its use vastly out measures wild supply, which is why its cultivation is so important. The leaves are edible and high in protein and a source of calcium, phosphorous, iron, beta-carotene and B and C vitamins. Its stem is part of the bitter flavor in local beer (‘talla’) and mead (‘tej’), which is enjoyed by maybe 5 million people every day, and it has wide medicinal applications too. In terms of ecosystem services, gešo is valuable for controlling soil erosion and providing shade.
Meanwhile in Tanzania, we’re planting Jatropha (Jatrohpa curcas L.). It is drought tolerant and able to grow in poor soils (‘just drop the seeds in a desert and they will grow’, some people say), and it provides a wealth of products. Its seeds have an oil content of around 37%, which, though it cannot be consumed, can be used as smoke-free biofuel as an alternative to fossil fuels. It’s extremely easy to extract as well. It has been used for soil erosion control and rehabilitating eroded watersheds in Ethiopia, Mali and Tanzania and is used in agroforestry systems to provide organic fertilizer. It also provides animal feed and ingredients for soap production and leather work. To top it all off, Jatropha has medicinal properties too.
Last but not least, we have moringa (Moringa oleifera). It has been granted the title of the ‘miracle tree’, a name that can be hard to live up to. Moringa does its name justice though; 4,000 years of use in traditional medicine to treat 300 diseases is worth celebrating. To put it into perspective, the leaves have 9 times the protein concentration of yoghurt, 10 times the vitamin A of carrots, 15 times the potassium levels of bananas, 17 times the calcium of milk, 12 times the vitamin C of oranges, 12 times the iron of spinach and they are loaded with antioxidants and antibiotics. How’s that for amazing?
These plants provide countless opportunities for very positive outcomes in the three realms of sustainable development; society, economy and environment. We think that’s a very good deal and that’s why we forest with these species.