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High in vitamin A, calcium and protein and rich in vitamin C, iron and potassium, moringa is also said to have immune-boosting and disease fighting properties

Moringa seedlings ready for distribution at FQM's Kansanshi Foundation nursery.Moringa seedlings ready for distribution at FQM’s Kansanshi Foundation nursery.

SOLWEZI, ZAMBIA – Communities around the Kansanshi Mine in Solwezi are being given moringa trees as part of a village nutrition programme to improve the nutrition levels of the local population.

The highly nutritious plant is rich in vitamin A, calcium and protein as well as vitamin C, iron and potassium, and is also said to have immune-boosting and disease fighting properties.

Seeds have been distributed to 2,800 farmers under Kansanshi Foundation’s conservation farming programme, which farmers have propagated in their own sleeves and planted out. The foundation, which is part of First Quantum Minerals (FQM) is looking at how the crop can be grown at household level to enhance food security, while improving nutrition in communities.

“We have done trials on moringa here at the foundation and the results have been very pleasing. We are cutting and drying moringa on a daily basis and have accumulated a healthy stock of dried powder which would sustain a family and their village livestock for a year off a 20×10 metre plot if done properly,” said sustainability manager Bruce Lewis.

Regarded as a ‘superfood’, moringa enjoys demand from nutritionists as well as farmers, who regard it as an affordable source of quality fodder for their cattle when harvested and processed correctly.

“It’s a difficult crop to establish, but the whole premise of this project is based on the correlation between nutrition and education. We will provide seeds and training to the farmers on how to grow, harvest and process moringa,” said Mr Lewis.

The project will avoid the pitfalls associated with some other moringa projects grown for trading, and would instead focus on the plant as a source of household nutrition, he added.

FQM has aligned its community initiatives with every one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a move that puts the mining giant at the forefront of best practice in private sector social investment locally and globally.

“The moringa project is in line with SDG 2, which seeks to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture,” he explained.

The mining firm has invested heavily in communities where it operates, with health programmes including HIV awareness, malaria and construction of clinics; conservation farming; education and scholarship programmes; infrastructure and gender equality programmes.

Since project inception in the 2010/2011 season, more than 30,000 farmers have benefited from the conservation farming programme. In the last nine farming seasons, FQM has concentrated on improving people’s livelihoods in terms of agriculture. Its sustainability programme has helped ensure easy access to the best farming practices for communities around its Kansanshi mine in North-Western Province and Sentinel Mine at Kalumbila.

“Conservation farming, with crop rotation and sound agricultural practice, has helped farmers under our community support projects to improve yields by up to 900 percent, while ensuring they are farming in a way that does not harm the land,” he said.

The company has spent over US$43 million on its sustainability and community development programmes by aligning its Kansanshi and Trident foundations’ programmes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The overall objective of its socio-economic development programmes is to improve the quality of life for its employees, their families and their immediate communities.

Despite the mining sector’s current cutbacks as a result of the introduction of higher taxes this year, the company willl continue to undertake key development programmes in health, education, livelihoods and wildlife conservation, but will apply a higher level of scrutiny on all expenditure.

“FQM takes the continuity of sustainable development programmes in local communities very seriously. It is essential that we continue with the critical programmes so that we do not lose the progress we have made in our local communities over the last decade,” said Mr Lewis.