Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and the Raw Material Research and Development Council (RMRDC) have conducted research on the utilisation of Moringa oleifera seed extract as a phytochemical for the replacement of alum, an imported chemical, in water treatment for rural communities in Nigeria. This can save millions of naira in foreign exchange yearly.
Moringa oleifera is a fast-growing plant that belongs to the Moringaceae family. As a result of its properties, moringa cultivation has spread to many countries around the globe. The common names include moringa, drumstick tree, horseradish tree and benzolive tree.
Research has shown that the different parts of the Moringa tree contain at least a beneficial nutrient or anti-nutrient useful to mankind. The fresh leaves from moringa are good sources of vitamins A, C and E. Vitamin A has important functions in vision, reproduction, embryonic growth, immune development and cell differentiation. They are sources of carotenoids with pro-vitamin A.
The council has played a leading role on the symmetric development of the moringa plant, ranging from awareness creation on its socio-economic benefits, domestication, boosting the cultivation of the plant and development of SMEs for moringa processing and value-addition.
The research and development result led to the development of a laboratory model, which was designed, fabricated and upgraded to 10,000-litre pilot-scale plant in line with the requirements for food and nutritional products.
Director-General of the RMRDC, Prof. H. D. Ibrahim, explained to The Guardian that the plant, after a test run, had been commissioned.
“After this, the Council fund the work on oil and coagulant extraction from Moringa seeds for water treatment and generation of relevant data and analysis as relates to the water treatment plant with encouraging results. Research collaboration with University of Nigeria, Nsukka, was on agronomic evaluation, biochemical characterisation and aspects of post-harvest quality assessment of twenty accessions of Moringa oleifera seeds,” he said.
Further to this, to harness all the socio-economic benefits of Moringa, the council organized a national summit on the moringa development with the theme, ‘Moringa oleifera’, a Local Plant Resource for Achieving National Growth and Development at its headquarters in Abuja.
The Moringa Development Association of Nigeria (MDAN) was inaugurated during the Moringa summit. The association was mandated to promote and coordinate moringa development activities as driven by scientific research to tap potential of the plant.
Meanwhile, the Moringa Development Association of Nigeria (MDAN), in collaboration with the Kwara State government and the RMRDC, organised the second national summit on moringa development.
Also, under a Public Private partnership (PPP) arrangement, the council has partnered with Salient Flowers, a horticultural firm in Abuja, to raise five thousand planting materials, which were distributed to small-scale farmers. In addition, the Council also partnered with some co-operative societies on processing equipment for production of moringa oil, which was designed and developed at Double Quick Investment Ltd, Former Grace Fellowship Africa, in Biu, Borno State.
To commercialize research findings on moringa, the council embarked on products development in collaboration with some private sector organisations such as Moringa Development Association of Nigeria (MDAN).
Through this, moringa products, ranging from moringa tea, tablet soap, leave powder, liquid soap, spices, milk, oil, root powder and a host of other products have been produced with stakeholders.
Further R&D work would be on the characterization of the Moringa oleifera Lam. Seed cake for water purification: an appraisal of storage conditions and packaging. The preliminary part of the study was carried out in collaboration with the Penn State University, USA and the bench experiment had been completed. The final aspect of the experiment is also at an advanced stage of completion.
The director-general said the council’s interest was to ensure a balanced development of the plant in Nigeria. This, he added, is being done in such a way that toxic components in any part of the plant are eliminated before consumption in view of its increasing importance for full benefit of Nigerians.
The council expressed readiness to partner with investors or pharmaceutical industries willing to invest in moringa processing and products development, not only for food supplements and drugs manufacturing, but also for a host of other products already highlighted.