The ingredients that go into the products we consume matter in ways that are not always obvious to the average buyer. The raw materials we demand become a priority for the populations that we source the materials from, many of them developing countries. If we need bananas, the villages where bananas grow will invest time, money and energy into producing bananas in abundance, the extras going into the bellies of the villagers themselves. The hungriest people grow food for a living.
Investing in agriculture is, hands down, the most effective method of reducing poverty but investment in agriculture has been declining for the past two decades. That is why Oakland-based social enterprise, Kuli Kuli Foods, is part of the solution to global malnutrition. With a rise in demand for moringa, one of the most nutrient rich plants on the planet, a rise in production and consequential consumption will occur in the villages where it is grown. Kuli Kuli is incentivizing communities where malnutrition is an epidemic to invest in a plant that will nourish the community, both physically and economically. This is why Kuli Kuli is a movement. We’re nourishing the planet in every aspect of the word.
After experiencing malnutrition as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger, Kuli Kuli's founder Lisa Curtis turned to moringa to regain her strength. This experience inspired Lisa to found Kuli Kuli with a vision to bring moringa to more people who need it. Lisa found that the women in her village saw no reason to grow moringa when there was no market demand and thus was inspired to start Kuli Kuli, the name coming from a traditional moringa, peanut snack those women often fed her.
Kuli Kuli sources moringa from majority women-owned farming cooperatives across Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia, directly impacting over 11,000 farmers. It is through expanding their reach and including farmers that need more assistance with getting their moringa to an exportable quality, Kuli Kuli is driven to solve the issue of rural transformation and zero hunger.
The birth of Kuli Kuli was in West Africa, so only naturally, Kuli Kuli is constantly looking for ways to expand production in this region of the world. If awarded the Global Maker Challenge, Kuli Kuli can engage more fully with farmers like Pierrette, who was widowed with five children when she discovered the miraculous tree of moringa in her country, Benin, West Africa (see video). She started her own moringa powder company, sourcing moringa from over 130 other widowed women, a population she has targeted as the most vulnerable to poverty. Kuli Kuli has partnered with Pierrette for the past two years, assisting her company’s growth in any capacity possible. Unfortunately, this can only go so far. In order to push her moringa production to an exportable level, there needs to be heavy investment in tools, trainings and employees. This award can provide that opportunity.