Addis Ababa: Almost a century after neem was introduced in this East African nation, India, where the tree originated, is helping Ethiopia realise its full potential.
"Ethiopia has unlimited potential for the plantation of the neem tree which grows in humid, arid, and hot places. India, which is the birthplace of the tree, earns $2.5 billion annually from the sale of Azadirachtin (a chemical extracted from the tree and used to manufacture pesticides) alone," Neem Foundation of Ethiopia chairman Taye Teferedegn told.
"The tree has enormous advantages from agriculture to medicine, from industry to the environment. Its use is really countless. If we work on it, we will have another item for export on our list," he added.
Towards this, a presentation was made here by an Indian business and academic delegation that was invited by the Neem Foundation of Ethiopia as part of its awareness creation and technology transfer objectives.
During the visit, Ramesh C. Saxena, chairman of the Mumbai-based Neem Foundation, delivered a lecture that was attended, among others, by a representative of EID Parry India Ltd, a huge Indian pest control company that focuses on the industrial extraction of Azadirachtin. The company aspires to discover the opportunities in the development and processing of the neem tree in Ethiopia, an official said.
One kilogram of Azadirachtin currently sells at around $1,200 dollars on the international market.
"The visit would enable the Foundation and the nation to tap into a very valuable technology and knowledge transfer opportunity," Teferedegn pointed out.
The Neem Foundation of Ethiopia has chalked out a five-year plan to plant over one million neem trees in at least three regional states of the country and start the extraction of Azadirachtin and the production of various neem bi-products. The Foundation, with the support of donors, had planted over 150,000 neem seedlings in Afra regional state over the last four years.
The Neem Foundation of Ethiopia is a non-governmental organisation established by Ethiopian scientists in 1995 to promote the Neem tree in this country. Since its establishment, the Foundation has carried out various activities to expand the plantation of neem trees in the country.
"It has medicinal value in addition to economic benefits. It can produce timber and firewood while at the same time absorbing carbon and helping with land conservation. It did not receive as much attention as it should have in order to maximize its benefits. We are currently working with the Neem Foundation of Ethiopia to make use of its advantages exhaustively in the future," said Sertse Sibuh, forestry case team coordinator at Ethiopia`s agriculture ministry.
Ramesh C. Saxena is renowned for his bio-pest control initiative both in India and globally. From 1991 to 2000, he was senior principal scientist at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Kenya where he coordinated a $1.79 million neem awareness project in sub-Saharan Africa funded by the Finnish government and the United Nations Environment Programme. The project contributed to mitigating rural poverty through dissemination and diffusion of neem technology for better plant, animal, human, and environmental health.
Saxena received a masters in tropical agriculture from the University of Hawaii and a doctorate in entomology from Delhi University.