How This One Plant Is Changing Lives

Touted as a new “superfood,” moringa has been used in traditional medicine for millennia, and contemporary studies have begun to validate its benefits. Moringa is high in protein, calcium, iron, and vitamins C and A, and has high concentrations of antioxidants. It’s also a complete protein, offering all nine amino acids required to metabolize a generous dose of protein.

The basic form is a pure vegetable powder made from the leaves of the tropical moringa plant, which is organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, and vegan. The powder’s uses in cooking encompass anything from smoothies and shakes to casseroles and curries. Moringa is also available in energy shots and superfood bars, with minimal calories and maximum nutrition.

The Passion

Lisa Curtis, founder of Kuli Kuli, first encountered moringa while in the Peace Corps. As a vegetarian existing on mostly Nigerian rice and millet, she became intrigued by this local plant. It grew profusely and with little need for husbandry, and yet was vastly underutilized in the local cuisine and economy.

Lisa’s “aha! moment” came late one evening in Niger as she was drinking tea with friends. In her words: “A small child approached, collapsing at our feet. The boy had not eaten in three days. That morning, a care package had come from my mother, full of nutritional bars. I grabbed a few, stuffing them into the child’s hands and praying that it was enough. But I knew it wasn’t … to put a new spin on the classic adage, ‘Give a Nigerian woman a sack of American-grown corn, and she will eat for a day. Teach her how to grow nutritious food, and she will feed her community.'” Moringa was that food.

Lisa launched Kuli Kuli with a crowdfunding campaign, and began producing nutritional bars. Next came energy shots, powered by a reforestation project that planted new moringa trees in Haiti.

Vegetable powders and herbal teas followed as the company grew. Through it all, Lisa focused on “working with women-led farming cooperatives to drive economic growth, empowerment, and sustainable agricultural development.” Currently, Kuli Kuli sources its moringa from farms in Ghana, Nicaragua, and Haiti. Lisa visits the farms herself, establishing and maintaining relationships with the growers. The hope is that by positioning moringa as a tool for nutritional security, the coming generation can move closer to a world without hunger.

When asked “why,” Lisa replies, “I want to leave this world better than I found it. Kuli Kuli is my small way of doing that.”

Lisa Curtis, shown above, was sent to Niger as a community development volunteer and worked in the local health centers, where she developed a special rapport with the local women.

A woman and her daughter in Haiti hold moringa plants.

View our Watercress Moringa Pesto Recipe


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