I got my first taste of moringa as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small village in Niger. As a vegetarian, I was eating mostly rice and millet — a diet that left me feeling sluggish. When I mentioned my fatigue to women at the community health center, they suggested I try moringa. I bought moringa leaves from a neighbor’s tree and mixed them with a popular peanut snack called kuli-kuli. I soon felt better and began to work with villagers to encourage them to use moringa. I founded Kuli Kuli to help women in West Africa use more moringa locally and earn a sustainable livelihood by selling a portion of each harvest to the US.
After returning to the US, I recruited three amazing co-founders Valerie Popelka, Jordan Moncharmont and Anne Tsuei to launch Kuli Kuli. We launched through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign which raised $53,000, making it the most popular food campaign Indiegogo had ever had at the time. In 2015, Kuli Kuli announced an initiative with Whole Foods Market, the Clinton Foundation’s Haiti Program, and the Smallholder Farmers Alliance to plant hundreds of moringa trees in Haiti and sell a Moringa Green Energy Shot made with Haitian moringa. As part of this new initiative, we launched a second crowdfunding campaign that raised $100,000 from over 500 people. This ambitious new project will help reforest Haiti with drought-tolerant moringa trees while providing Haitian smallholder farmers access to the growing market for moringa leaf powder.