Moringa is a tropical tree with multiple uses and which is resistant to drought. Among the 13 species known, Moringa oleifera is particularly easy to reproduce and its growth is very fast. The numerous economic uses of Moringa oleifera together with its easy propagation have raised growing international interest for this tree which originated from India and which is found in most tropical countries (Africa, Asia and America). Moringa stenopetala and other species from Eastern Africa and Madagascar also have potential even though they have been less exploited so far.
Moringa is an important food source in many countries. In India, Moringa pods are widely consumed and plantations exist to produce pods for export, fresh and tinned, to overseas consumers. In West Africa, Moringa oleifera leaves are commonly used to make sauces. Moringa stenopetala leaves are the staple food of the Konso people in Ethiopia. Studies have shown Moringa oleifera leaves to be an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and protein: perhaps more than any other tropical vegetable. Many programs use Moringa leaves to fight against malnutrition and its associated diseases (blindness etc.).
Moringa seeds contain a cationic polyelectrolyte that has proved efficient in water treatment, as a substitute to aluminium sulphate and other flocculent. There is a dual advantage to this property:
1) it can be used as a locally-produced substitute for imported flocculent, thus reducing expenditure of foreign currency reserves by third world countries;
2) Moringa flocculent, unlike aluminium sulphate, is completely biodegradable. This aspect may be particularly interesting to developed countries.
Oil extracted from the seeds is an excellent edible vegetable oil and is also useful within the cosmetics industry. A dual usage of Moringa, as a source of oil and flocculent, is possible, since the seed cake remaining after oil extraction retains the flocculating properties.
Other applications of Moringa including use as livestock feed, plant growth hormone, green manure, and medicine are currently the subject of various research efforts.