Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Malawi entrepreneur uses Mother Nature to empower women

Annie Bonomali has empowered thousands of women across Malawi by training them to make environmentally friendly soaps, creams and medicine, that are now sold around the world.

BLANTYRE, MALAWI REUTERS -
Annie Bonomali has set up in business in Blantyre, Malawi making health products and cosmetics from the Moringa tree.
The leaves of the moringa tree, which grows mainly in tropical and sub-tropical regions, are the essential ingredient of Bonomali's products.

Moringa leaves are dried and used for medication, but they can also be a source of essential nutrients lacking in people's diets.

"When dried in a cool place, we use its powder as medicine and its leaves we eat as relish. My family is fit and my grandchildren are fit and healthy now," said Malita Chiwere, a moringa tree farmer.

Bonomali, 52, started her business in 2002 after searching for natural cures to help her recover from two strokes.

"Moringa is a miracle tree because it can heal and cure more than 300 diseases and it is found everywhere," Bonomali said.

In 2005, Bonomali's business grew and she was able to create the Moringa growers association, offering training courses to women on how to make products from the moringa and baobab trees.

Bonomali has trained more than 2,100 women across Malawi. Many of them live in rural areas and are able to generate an income through their newly found knowledge.

In February, Japan presented Bonomali's organisation with the One Village One Product (Ovop) International Promotion Award (Hiramatsu Award) for her outstanding work to the development and prosperity of her community.

Bonomali's products are now in demand in countries such as Japan, and neighbouring Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana.

She exports jam from baobab tree twice a year to Japan, Botswana and South Africa.

"Africa is rich. At the same time Malawi is also rich because we have the resources. There is only need to know how to use the resources," Bonomali said.

Last year she made 14,000 U.S. dollars from her baobab products alone.