In agriculture, neem oil, fruit and the different by-products such as seed cake are used as bio pesticides, fungicides and organic manures. Scientists foresee that neem tree will create a new era in pest control and thereby solve other ecological problems affecting the globe.

Neem leaves decompose slowly, leading to a slower release of nutrients contained in them. The slow release of nutrients is attributed to the presence to the various extractable principles in seed and cake and these extracts are used as rewarding adjuvant for nitrogenous fertilisers such as urea. It is estimated that out of the total quantity of urea applied to crops, about 50- 70% is lost in various forms, thereby reducing the availability of nitrogen to crops. There is an age-old practice in India of blending neem cake with urea. When neem cake is blended with urea, it forms a fine coating and protects the loss of nitrogen by denitrification ensuring regulated continuous availability of nitrogen for a longer period, as per the requirement of crops. Neem seed cake also stimulates the phosphorus uptake slightly but had no effect on potassium uptake.

Indian farmers know the benefit and importance of neem but the use of neem is still quite low in our country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the nation on the eve of the 69th Independence Day, emphasised that we ought to “Save water, Save Energy, Save Fertilizer”. The PM’s vision, adopted by Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers & Chemicals (GNFC), has developed a process of Neem Fruit Collection with the help of rural grassroots workers and organisations like Narmada Khedut Sahay Kendra, Sakhi Mandal, PaniSamities, Dudh Mandlis etc.

Over one lakh women involved in the process of neem fruit collection have achieved socio-economic empowerment as their additional incomes have grown substantially. A well-organised system has been established particularly in the tribal areas of Gujarat.

GNFC’s Neem Project is evidently playing a significant role in preventing the misuse of urea, reducing the use of urea in farms, supplementing income to the rural poor (especially women), promoting the use of organic fertilisers for the larger interest of farmers, encouraging people for protecting and nourishing neem trees and saving the foreign exchange of India.

Over one lakh women involved in the process of neem fruit collection have achieved socio-economic empowerment as their additional incomes have grown substantially. A well-organised system has also been established, particularly in the tribal areas of Gujarat.

Farmers in Mexico and Haiti and shepherds in Australia have begun switching to simple neem-based sprays from the usual synthetic chemical pesticides. This has allowed the farmers to export mangos and other fruit to the United States without the chemical residues that often stopped their shipments at inspection stations. Neem-based sprays have similarly allowed shepherds in Australia to produce pesticide-free wool that is being sold to European buyers for a considerable premium over the standard wool contaminated with chemical pesticides. Neem extracts have been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use on food crops. And today, more and more of governmental agencies approve the use of neem on food crops.

Neem fruit collection helps farmers in rural Gujarat supplement their income.

Dr Rajiv Kumar Gupta, Managing Director of GNFC, says the model adopted by GNFC has motivated many other states/companies to come forward for implementation of similar development projects. The Neem Project undertaken by the GNFC has generated Rs 10-12 crore supplementary income for approximately one lakh rural women and landless labourers in its very first year.

Jamnaben D. Jadav of Vedach (Kamboyavaga) village, district Bharuch, collected at total of 9,909MT of Neem seeds, spending half-an-hour a day for two months. She earned a total amount of Rs 48,059, which turned out to be a propitious economical support for her. It is truly a remarkable achievement for a rural woman who spent just half-an-hour a day and were able to earn this amount which would surely boost her socio-economic standing.

The Neem tree not only solves a global problem but also helps in generating income, especially in rural areas.

The writer is Joint  Director of Information, Government of Gujarat

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