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From tiny seeds grow mighty trees

A woman poses with moringa seeds which will be turned into Moringaid powder.

September 22, 2023

By Jacqueline Tucci

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Along the border between Thailand and Burma, a new social enterprise project run by DARE (Drug & Alcohol Recovery & Education) Network and supported by PWRDF, is providing a source of hope for refugees and migrant workers in the region.

Moringaid is a powdered supplement made from moringa seeds, rich in protein, iron, calcium and vitamin B and C. Growing and processing the seeds into Moringaid, and then selling the product online, is providing a source of income for migrant workers and refugees, empowering them with long-term financial sustainability.

The protracted crisis has left thousands of Burmese refugees living in camps with little-to-no economic opportunity. There are currently more than two million Burmese migrant workers in Thailand working in harsh factories and on farms, most often for less than minimum wage. The lack of jobs worsens the plight of those in the camps dealing with addiction, trauma and violence.

“Addiction and violence are rife in this population due to the extreme abuse [migrants] have suffered,” says DARE Network founder, Pam Rogers. “Yet, because of continuous security issues it is challenging to provide services to them. Now, thanks to PWRDF, we have a chance.

“Addiction is a family and community problem,” Rogers adds. “Women in migrant worker village communities hold the families together. If the male partner is an addict, then the women are subject to more poverty, stress and domestic violence. Men also undergo severe stress from loss of traditional roles and PTSD from war, including loss of land and disability due to landmines.”

PWRDF funds are supporting the cultivation and processing of moringa seeds on a recently purchased plot of land measuring 3,200 square metres (slightly less than an acre). DARE will also be building a house on the property for training addiction workers and treating the migrant population.

The moringa is a versatile, fast-growing, and drought-resistant tree, which grows in tropical countries in Asia, Africa and South America. Local people use all parts of the tree – leaves, roots and pods – to enhance their diets and for its many herbal and medicinal properties. For many people in these regions, the moringa tree can be the difference between malnutrition and wellbeing.

DARE has always taken a community-focused approach, allowing programs and activities to be led by the local community, for the local community. As a result, DARE Network rehabilitation programs have a 61% non-relapse rate, compared to the average Western rehabilitation program’s rate of 25%, something Rogers credits to listening and learning from local people, and working together to achieve sustainable change.

“When you work in a different culture, with many different ways of thinking and languages, it is important to be respectful of local knowledge,” says Rogers.

“In order for our program to benefit people on the [Thai-Burmese] border, we needed them to participate with this knowledge and to buy in to the whole process. It has to make sense to them in terms that are important and close to them, not what we think is right or ‘best practices.’ The results speak for themselves.”

This story was published in the November 2023 issue of Under the Sun.

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