Amid rain drizzles, Francis Martin Chiponda stuns communities and foreign nationals from World Vision Support offices by declaring his HIV positive status.
His declaration was not by force, but to testify how he is still surviving after testing positive in 2006.
Chiponda—who comes from Champhula Village Head in Nthondo, Ntchisi District —was confirmed positive after undergoing HIV voluntary, testing and counselling services (VCT) at a nearby clinic.
His ailing health, he says, ignited debate in his mind to undergo such VCT services.
“The situation was worse when I had just lost my wife. Raising children was not an easy thing as I had too many things to do for them,” he said.
Nutritious herb Moringa
Chiponda, 65, is still energetic and holds various positions in Champhula Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Nthondo. How? It is the magic from Moringa leaves.
“It keeps me strong and that is why I am still alive. I cannot remember the last time I got sick after starting to take Moringa,” he says.
Chiponda says he takes the herb twice a day.
Global scientists and health experts say Moringa has an impressive range of medicinal and nutritional values and benefits.
Chiponda’s belief in Moringa is backed by World Health Organization, which since 1998 has been promoting the tree as an alternative to imported food supplies to treat malnutrition.
No wonder, World Vision, with funds from the US support team sent him to a training in Balaka to learn about the production and growth of Moringa.
Chiponda enthuses that he was also sent to Chongoni in Dedza with a US volunteer to get extra skills on producing the product to satisfy the growing demand in towns and cities.
“We dry leaves under shade. After that, we pound and sieve them before putting them in bottles. It is also our duty to ensure that bottle are clean and certified by authorities and health experts locally,” he explains.
In underdeveloped countries, organizations and clinics distribute Moringa to infants, children, pregnant and lactating women for good health.
Chiponda as chairperson of Moringa Group makes 200 bottles. His group comprises 20 people and more are likely to join following success stories.
For sustainability sake, Chiponda is also an executive member of Cheka Cooperatives to which the group is affiliated since its inception in 2006.
Shopping or the so called window shopping in Malawi’s commercial and administrative capitals, Blantyre and Lilongwe respectively, gives you a chance to appreciate the marketability of Moringa and other herbs.
This paints a picture of financial independence and positive contribution to the society for the likes of Chiponda.
“I have established market deals with One Village one Product (Ovop) and other shops in Lilongwe. One bottle costs K750 (about $1.1). For positive branding, I buy labels from Ovop at K70 so the bottle looks original.
“Of course, bottles are expensive, but will strive to make more products of this nature to increase my profit-base,” he states.
Chiponda says through Moringa, he has managed to educate his 12 children.
“I live a decent life out of this business. Even those that are positive are being assisted through this venture such that they can do farming and various household tasks without facing health deficiencies,” he declares.
With increased population growth in Malawi, which the United Nations estimates at 16 million, business operators and farmers such as Chiponda stand to benefit more if they increase production to meet the demand.
World Vision deputy national director Fordson Kafweku recently observed that population growth is an opportunity for producers of various goods and services.
“Production of Moringa is a good initiative since it can secure the future of Malawians, but there is need for partnership with various organisations such as Vision Fund,” said Kafweku.
He added: “It is an issue of demand and supply. If there are more people, it means producers of various goods and services have to boost their production to match with the increasing demand.”
Moringa Group members—having realized the potential of the tree—have since begun planting more trees this season to meet the demand on the local market.
Prospects are also high that they would be able to export some of their products for maximum gains.
The growth of such trees is also championed by Nepad, an arm of the African Union Commission (AUC) that the continent capitalise on population growth to engage in production of more drugs inclusive herbs.
Nepad, WHO and AUC delegates said this during the recent 2nd Biennial Scientific Conference on Medicines Regulation in Africa.
Like World Vision, delegates asked governments to regulate production of medicines, including local herbs to improve health service delivery.