Moringa: Creating Sustainable Livelihoods for Women in West Africa

Pierrette is a young, widowed mother of five, and a social entrepreneur capitalizing on the nutritious, drought-resistant Moringa tree

Photo of Julie Curtis
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Written by

I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

Plantes Aromatiques des Collines (PAC)

Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Scaling (the solution has passed the previous stages and is growing its impact on a regional or global scale)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $10k - $50k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 500 - 1,000

Organization type

  • Social enterprise

Secondary Focus Area

  • Nutrition

Headquarters location: Country

  • Benin

Headquarters location: City


Location(s) of impact

Benin: Dassa, Odo-Otchèrè, and Camaté United States of America


Facebook URL

Twitter URL

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

In Dassa, Benin, West Africa, life is not easy for women and children: 1) Women and children are more likely to be affected by poverty and climate change; 2) Due to extreme dry and wet seasons, finding fruits and vegetables year-round is either too expensive, or impossible for the average family; 3) In Benin, nearly half of all children under five are stunted due to malnutrition (UNICEF, 2015). PAC is a social enterprise composed of mothers in vulnerable situations with an intimate perspective on these issues.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

Moringa oleifera is one of the most nutritious plants in the world. Even better, it is a fast-growing tree that is adapted to extreme climates and excels in countries like Benin. PAC has capitalized on these characteristics and uses them to address issues like unemployment, malnutrition, climate change, deforestation, and women’s empowerment. PAC has created a growing network of 133 women in Dassa, Benin. These women grow Moringa trees around their homes and sell the leaves to the social enterprise, which are then processed into a powder and sold as a nutritional supplement all around the country. PAC helps the women plant and cultivate the trees, and the women receive not only a vital supplemental income source, but also a near unlimited supply of fresh Moringa leaves that they can incorporate into the meals they feed their families. The added income earned by selling leaves to PAC allows the women to pay for expenses like food, clothes, school fees, and medicine.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

In 2013, Pierrette Djemain was recently widowed. While trying to rebuild her life, she got to know dozens of other women in similarly precarious situations. During this difficult period, she participated in a training on how to process Moringa leaves into a powder capable of long-term storage, where she learned of the benefits of Moringa and that it can be easily and quickly grown almost anywhere in Benin. Four years later, Pierrette and her social enterprise PAC produce some of the the highest quality Moringa powder in Benin, while contributing to the re-greening of the community. PAC purchases Moringa leaves from 133 women in and around Dassa, who use this extra income to pay for better meals for their children, school fees, healthcare costs, and more. Every year as PAC’s capacity grows, they hire more employees, and help more women plant Moringa and draw economic and health benefits from this unique tree. To date, over 8,000 Moringa seedlings have been distributed to women.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

PAC partially supports itself financially through individual donations (20%) and grants (10%), but earns most of its revenue (70%) through sales of Moringa products around Benin, and invests profits into production and processing improvements that will allow access to markets beyond Benin in the USA and Europe. As vital equipment and infrastructure investments are made, PAC will be able to greatly increase revenue by satisfying quality and quantity requirements of its export partners, like Kuli Kuli, an American company creating healthy and delicious food products containing Moringa sourced from West Africa. This will ensure financial sustainability and continued improvements to the livelihoods of the suppliers and employees of PAC, based entirely on earned income.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

According to the US Bank, in 2015 alone, over 152 billion dollars were spent on foreign aid projects in Africa with only a fraction of that money creating sustainable change. PAC was started by a struggling African woman, built for struggling African women. The stakeholders know the value of every dollar to every member of the community, and have everything to gain and everything to lose in making this work. This unique experience provides PAC with a vision focused on lifting up the community.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

In 2013, Pierrette, founder of PAC and widowed with 5 children, participated in a training on processing Moringa into powder, where she learned about the nutritional benefits of Moringa leaves. Here is where she saw an opportunity to use what she learned to both create an income source for herself, and help all the disadvantaged women she met around the community since the death of her husband by providing them extra income and a powerful health supplement. Today, PAC consists of a fast-growing network of women who produce Moringa leaves, creating significant economic value and improvements in family health, all out of the modest assets held by these women. PAC’s activities have garnered the attention of export partners in the USA and Europe, which has redefined its vision and shown the possibility that even more families can benefit from Moringa, beyond Dassa, and beyond Benin.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Upon recommendation from others

Evaluation results

19 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 47.4%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 26.3%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 21.1%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 5.3%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

2. Innovation

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 26.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 31.6%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 26.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 5.3%

1 - This entry is weak here - 10.5%

3. Social and/or Environmental Impact

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 47.4%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 31.6%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 21.1%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

4. Financial sustainability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 18.2%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 100%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 45.5%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 9.1%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

5. Potential to Scale / Replicability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 21.1%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 47.4%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 31.6%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

6. Organizational Leadership

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 10.5%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 63.2%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 26.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

7. Potential for Creating Shared Value

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 47.4%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 26.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 26.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sebastian Gatica

Exciting project, good luck!


Photo of Sage Lancaster

Hi Julie. Thank you so much for sharing this project, and Pierrette's story. It is beautiful how she has used her skills and has been able to involve so many women- all building bright futures for themselves. I see so much potential in this project because of its sustainability, and this could definitely grow to other geographical areas. Best of luck!

Photo of Julie Curtis

Thank you so much for your support! We hope to keep growing so we can include every struggling woman that shows up at our door asking for work.

Photo of Samir Vinchurkar

This is an amazing innovation which can lead to social benefits for womens health as well as improvement in financial stability. Best wishes to you all!!

Photo of Julie Curtis

Thank you very much!

Photo of Michelle Berkowitz Sultan

Julie Curtis congratulations on your enterprise! Your work appears to be significantly impacting the lives of these women through improved income generation and nutrition. I commend you for your efforts and for focusing on women as your target producers. I'm curious as to how big the moringa market is in Benin? Is there direct competition from other companies? How long until the market is saturated before having to expand to international markets? I wish you the best of luck and look forward to learning more about your progress!

Photo of Julie Curtis

Thank you! We hope to live up to all your kind words.

That is a great question. The moringa market in Benin is mostly concentrated to the capital and wealthier cities. Our moringa is the cheapest and most hygienic on the market and has gained a great reputation for doing so. That said, we predict the market will be fully saturated in the coming years so we are currently preparing for the international market by upgrading our facilities and working towards an organic certification.

Photo of Joseph Brenyah

PAC has a financial sustainability plan which can be developed to support its growth. There would be the need to invest in production equipment that will ensure high quality is introduced into the products. Preference of customers in USA and European markets are now on organic moringa products and PAC will do well to embark on organic certification if it has not planned such. More commercial plantations must be established to ensure adequate supply of inputs and to spread more shared value to the community. The leaves are only a small portion of the moringa tree which can be of value. Looking into the possibility of incorporating moringa seeds and other waste after the production of the leaf powder to generate more income can be a great source for community development in terms of health, rural development and water purification. PAC can focus seriously on such.

Photo of Julie Curtis

This is great advice. Thank you for your contribution.

Photo of Joseph Brenyah

In 2018, we count on visiting your site and see how well we can co-operate for a solid moringa agribusiness to be established in the West African sub-region. Keep up with the good work.

Photo of Laila Risgallah

fully support project. Brilliant idea

Photo of Jonathan Litscher

Wonderful to see someone not only rebuilding her own life in an entrepreneurial way, but enabling so many others to do the same! There is so much potential in Moringa and you've found a truly "shared value" approach to realising it, by enabling growers to earn an important income whilst giving many people across the country access to better nutrition. Well done!

Photo of Evaptainers

Very empowering project, good luck!!

Photo of Julie Curtis

Thank you very much! Best of luck to you as well.

Photo of Marg Leijdens

Very impressive work, especially because it was started by a woman who was in need of income and nutrition for her children. I am curious to know how PAC is securing the quality of the product that is marketed (even exported). Our project (Processing organic spices in Tanzania), quality control is also very important to guarantee a good market.

Photo of Julie Curtis

Thank you very much for the support! You bring up a very good point in regards to quality. It is something we do not take lightly. We thrive to meet the quality criteria we have received from our potential American and European export partners. To do so, unfortunately, it takes money. Although all hygienic control is taken very seriously, our current processing center and equipment has not allowed us to reach the level of quality we need. In 2018 we aim to have upgraded our center and equipment to ensure a high quality, exportable product.

Photo of Marg Leijdens

Dear Julie, thanks for your reply. I see we share the same challenge, to meet the quality criteria of the European and American markets. GFP organics has decided to do central processing of spices in the villages where farmers produce the spices, this makes it even more challenging but it is part of the success, as farmers feel more owner of the process. It also creates jobs for young women in the villages. Where do you do the processing and who is doing which steps in the processing?
Maybe you like to see our project too:

Photo of Lila Taheraly

Working with Pongamia, Moringa is another tree that we heard a lot about. I am glad to see an initiative combining Moringa and empowering women in Africa.

Photo of Julie Curtis

Really interesting reading about pongamia on your profile! It sounds like it has the power to really challenge and reshape the unsustainable agricultural system we have in place in the United States. Thanks for reaching out! Wishing you the best of luck.

Photo of Masresha Andarge

This is a very interesting project that matches with my project in Ethiopia. Yes, Moringa is worth promoting because of its nutritional values.

Photo of Julie Curtis

Many people here call it the "miracle tree" because of its' incredible nutritional value. Great job with all you have done to improve the lives of so many women and children in Ethiopia! Wishing you the best of luck.

Photo of FOLO Farms Malaysia

Amazing story of empowerment! We also grow moringa here in Malaysia for food. Your moringa not only feeds the body but also the soul. Would love to see how our moringa production at FOLO Farms Malaysia  can contribute to your cause. Looking forward to see how we can be part of your market expansion plans.

Photo of Julie Curtis

Thank you so much for the support! It is exciting to hear about the incredible work you are doing with moringa in Malaysia. We would love to collaborate and grow together!

Photo of Mouhamadou Moustapha Seck

It was a pleasure to read this work. No matter what happens, has a lot of potential to change the lives of thousands of people.

Photo of Julie Curtis

Thank you so much for the kind words!

Photo of Mouhamadou Moustapha Seck

You are welcome. It's a pleasure to read this project.