- Former film producer-turned Moringa hawker Elizabeth Mbogo-Mwendah shares her story of resilience in her quest to popularise the miracle herb
My story began a few years ago when I was expecting my second child. I thoroughly enjoyed my demanding job as an international film producer and cast director. I was ecstatic after I got my second-born but my joy was soon replaced with frustration and despair.
I had very little milk, so the baby cried a lot because she was always hungry. The many flasks of porridge and black beans (njahi) did not work. My back constantly ached and my husband was seriously worried. During a farm consultancy job he mentioned my predicament. The farmer told him about Moringa oleifera and its immense properties. He later introduced him to a group that was growing it in collaboration with an NGO to alleviate malnutrition.
I started mixing Moringa leaf powder in all my food and chewing the seeds. The results were immediate. I am usually big after my pregnancies so I suffer from knee and lower back pain. After some time I noticed that my knee and back pain was gone and the weight was steadily melting away. I got the whole family to take Moringa. I noticed great improvement in my son’s health and in that of my mother-in-law.
When I resumed work I was one restless lady, especially during the dry spells in between commissions. I looked forward to weekends to go and market Moringa and make deliveries. My passion had shifted — it was no longer the flare of the camera lens that turned me on but the miracle of seeing someone’s health transformed. The positive success stories and the repeat buys gave me the courage to finally quit. It took a lot of sacrifice — we had to cut the family budget and even change our lifestyle.
For a while, I literary hawked Moringa! I was that lady who walks into your office or shop, excuses herself, and starts explaining. The first time, I bought five kilos with money from my salary. I packed Moringa in polythene sachets and stuck a handwritten label on them because I could not afford proper packaging. I would sell it, then buy a slightly bigger quantity. I printed brochures with Moringa information to educate people on its health benefits.
I vividly remember this one time after I quit my job to do Moringa full-time and my husband’s business went low financially. I barely had transport to get to town to sell Moringa. The matatu tout overcharged me and I had to alight midway to borrow money from a friend. I was angry and desperate — my business idea was good but money was not forthcoming! I ended up in her toilet crying and praying for strength to press on.
I do not know how long I stayed in there but it was my turning point. I decided I would not give up. I had an amazing product, so my business had to work.