The moringa tree is known in many parts of the world for its nutritious leaves and protein-packed seeds. For Amina Abdullahi, a widowed housewife and mother of six in Nigeria, the tree inspired a life-changing idea.
When Amina’s husband died five years ago, she lost her only source of household income. Unable to get support from her husband’s family, she tried to make a living in housekeeping but was paid so little that she could not feed her family or send her children to school.
“I looked at myself and the future of my children. It was then that I said to myself, ‘I need to start a small business,’” she said.
Amina started selling ice cream and honey on the street, but it was still not enough to pay school fees. One day, she participated in a USAID-funded microenterprise workshop, held by Chemonics and Making Cents, where she learned about nutrition and child health.
There she heard about the high nutritional value of moringa leaves and had an idea: Why not grow and sell the leaves to her community?
Using the little money she had saved, Amina made a down payment on a small plot of land. She planted moringas and harvested her first leaves, packaged them in nylon, and sealed them in wax. To her excitement, her product sold. As nutritional awareness grew in the community, Amina found that she was selling more bags at a higher price. Eager to expand, Amina then took part in a group loan given to her community’s women’s association.
“It was after the microenterprise training that we saw the need and really understood how to do business successfully. The knowledge we acquired during training built our confidence to apply for the loan,” she said.
The two loans Amina received have helped her build her business to the point of being self-sufficient and finally allowed her to send her children back to school. Her income also allows her to buy more nutritious foods from the market to supplement what she grows herself. Not only are Amina’s children going to school, they are eating better, more nutritious food.
Harvey Schartup, Chemonics’ chief of party for the USAID program responsible for training Amina, says nutritional awareness for rural households like Amina’s is critical in any rural development program designed to reduce extreme poverty and improve food security.
“Healthy farming families contribute significantly to increased productivity and wealth in rural areas. Obviously, it’s not just women who eat. Everyone’s involved. So, we not only train women in nutrition, but men also as part of the normal training we give farmers in production,” he said.