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Forgotten crises: moringa trees for Pakistan

a man watering a tree

“The tree that heals all ills”: moringa trees as a beacon of hope, © Malteser International

22.01.2021 - Article

Pakistan’s southern Sindh province receives hardly any rainfall from October to June, followed by three months of uninterrupted rains. Malteser International is planting moringa trees in the region. “The tree that heals all ills” helps people to get to grips with alternate droughts and flooding.

“The tree that heals all ills”: 50,000 moringa trees in Sindh

Northwest India and Pakistan are home to the moringa tree, which is thought to be one of the most nutritious trees in the world and is known for its medicinal properties. In local tradition, it is reputed to be the tree that heals all ills. 

While considered to be a “superfood” in our country, the tree plays a vital role in Pakistan. Only few plants can withstand both the hot early summer and the downpours in August. The moringa tree is one of them, and it now sustains the livelihoods of many thousands of people in a region characterised by high food insecurity. The aid organisation Malteser International has therefore planted 50,000 moringa trees together with the local population.

A group of men and children standing next to a poster that reads “Distribution of Moringa Plants”, all of whom are holding seedlings in their hands
Moringa seedlings are distributed in a village© Malteser International

Daniel Hilbring, Programme Manager for South Asia at Malteser International, offers the following explanation: “Moringa is a versatile product that grows quickly and requires only a small amount of water in a limited space. Its leaves can be harvested several times a year. Roots, seeds, bark and leaves are a nutrient-rich source of food for humans and animals. This not only helps to feed the population, but cattle and goats do not have to starve either. These animals are the people’s only assets.” 

A humanitarian crisis on many levels: drought, flooding, plagues of locusts

Within an area roughly twice the size of Germany, Pakistan is home to a whole range of humanitarian crisis situations that are only seldom in the public eye. In the north and northwest, hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee from armed insurgents. On the border with Afghanistan, a population which is barely just surviving hosting 1.4 million refugees. In the south, droughts and floods alternate, and last year greedy swarms of locusts destroyed entire fields in a single day. In addition, bread, rice and salt are getting increasingly expensive – the reasons for this include a lingering economic crisis, inflation as a result of this and non-transparent competitive conditions.   

Germany supports Malteser International in Pakistan to the tune of 750,000 euro 

A man carrying a bag of food on his shoulder
Malteser International has assisted Pakistan for 15 years and Germany provided 750,000 euro of support in 2021© Malteser International

Malteser International has therefore provided assistance on the ground for 15 years – and not just by planting moringa trees. Malteser International provides drinking water, offers courses on healthy nutrition for pregnant and breastfeeding women, and trains relief committees in the villages that can intervene if, for example, a village is in danger of being submerged as a result of monsoons. They also distribute cash assistance, food and material goods. The Federal Government is supporting them to the tune of 750,000 euro in 2021.

Projects at local level

All Malteser International projects in Pakistan are implemented together with the local population. Such “localisation” is an aspect that is also important to the Federal Foreign Office in providing humanitarian assistance. Strengthening stakeholders and organisations in the region ensures that aid actually reaches the people on the ground. Those who help the population in Pakistan to come to grips with flooding and droughts can also boost their salaries. This strengthens the local economy and thus has a long-term positive impact. 

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