The Miracle Tree
This story was originally published on The Alliance website.
At the age of 14, Ana, a member of the majority religion in Indonesia, was married off by her family to a man who became abusive. She later married a loving husband, but one day he left for work and never returned home. Ana eventually learned that freedom fighters had killed him.
As a single mom with four children and little education, Ana found a job working in an orchard. The relentless, strenuous labor prevented her from being able to nurse her youngest daughter.
“I would harvest; I would plant; I would harvest; I would plant,” she recalls. “How could I care for my children when I had to work like a man?”
Ana’s friend Susi grew up in the home of her impoverished grandmother. Unable to save enough money for college, Susi instead worked long hours to ensure her sisters could attend. “I was willing to do whatever it took to help my family,” she says.
When a massive tsunami hit Indonesia in 2004, more than 170,000 people were killed in the region where Ana and Susi live; nearly half a million were left homeless.
CAMA provided emergency relief to survivors and then transitioned into development work. Among the items distributed along the tsunami-devastated coast were 2,000 moringa seedlings.
Packed with nutrients, the leaves from this plant—also known as the “miracle tree”—are used throughout Africa and Asia as a natural source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Beyond that, the leaves and seeds can be sold to supplement family income. CAMA staff explain moringa best: “It’s like having the fruit and vegetable drawer of your refrigerator in one leaf.”
CAMA promoted the plant’s health benefits to tsunami survivors living in temporary shelters and sent a couple, John and Michelle*, to help with long-term development. “Instant noodles and rice are almost always the first things brought in for victims of natural disaster,” they explain. “But they have next to no nutritional value. [CAMA’s moringa products] increase nutritional intake for folks whose immune systems are already depleted.”
CAMA staff decided to help start a local moringa enterprise, but they needed business partners. Having met Ana and Susi and observed their strong work ethic, they invited the women to join them and start their own local business.
“We wanted to work with people who would not normally have had a chance to own a business—those often marginalized,” John says.
No Longer Marginalized
In 2014, a social enterprise was formed with Ana and Susi as the proprietors—who are among the first female business owners in their town. The company has since made $25,000 in sales.
Through this opportunity, the women have grown personally and as business leaders; they have also had the financial resources to provide for others. Ana, for instance, has helped three of her children attend college.
Susi hopes the business grows so the women can employ more people who are struggling to survive. That dream is becoming a reality.
Recently, Indonesia’s national regulatory agency certified their moringa powder. This enables the company to sell it in pharmacies and grocery stores throughout the country. Ana and Susi have also launched a foundation that works with the health and social department to promote the plant’s health benefits and assist after natural disasters.
CAMA Indonesia has been working alongside the C&MA in Indonesia to deliver moringa products for use in famine relief. “We hope to equip local [groups] to respond to natural disasters and through this, form long-term relationships in their communities,” says John.
CAMA also has been involved in developing a self-sustaining moringa business in Cambodia, Moringa For Health (MFH). In addition to providing meaningful employment to local people, MFH has created opportunities for discipleship—a reflection of CAMA’s mission to shine the light of Christ in word and deed.