Developing countries wage a perpetual battle to produce sufficient food for their growing population. Future increases in agricultural production must come from increased crop yields per hectare relying on increased use of fertilizers and pesticides. Current ways of using those chemicals often results in soil, water and food contamination and severe dangers to human health.
Assistance was required to support countries to promote the use and develop production capacity of cost-effective eco-friendly alternatives to POP pesticides through the emphasis on non-chemical alternative pesticides. The project aimed to demonstrate the possibility to pave the way for low cost, safe, economical and environmentally-sound approaches to new bio-based pesticides from neem.
Neem (azadirachta indica) is an evergreen tree native to the Indian sub-continent and can grow in almost all types of soils and agro-climatic conditions. It is now widespread in many African countries. The tree had been classified in 1989 by the US National Research Council as a “tree for solving global problems” with its bearing chemicals can be serve as environmentally-sound pesticides. The potentials of the neem trees will also lead to the generation of additional incomes and employment opportunities in rural areas.
Towards a Solution
In November 2007, the RENPAP/Indian model of neem-derived pesticide technology using the Neem Kernel Aqueous Extract (NKAE) was presented and discussed in an Expert Group Meeting (EGM) organized in Abuja, Nigeria, which resulted in a recommendation to replicate and transfer the low-cost technology and the model of farmer training developed in India to West African countries through South-South cooperation mechanism.
The project aimed at promoting the use and development of production capacity of eco-friendly and cost-effective pesticides derived from neem kernels in three countries of West Africa through neem-shed development, technology transfer, South-South institutional linkages, skill enhancement, training activities at village level for rural development, agri-business and micro-industries promotion, poverty alleviation and employment generation. It also aimed to strengthen environmental protection, elimination of hazards by providing a low-cost and bio-efficient alternative to toxic persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and chemical pesticides.
To achieve the objectives, the project had been built upon the results of the successfully completed UNIDO/India projects titled “Technical support for Development and production of Neem products as Environment friendly Pesticides” and “Production and Promotion of Neem-based pesticides as Environment friendly biodegradable alternatives to chemical pesticides”. It was also developed on a strong collaboration and cooperation among project partners: UNIDO, UCSSIC, RENPAP and relevant ministries at participated countries.
Thus, UNIDO, based on initial study conducted by UCSSIC and RENPAP, had decided on a two-pronged approach to this project:
- Partnering with one identified technical institution in each country to carry out bio-efficacy and Phytotoxicity studies and field trials, and
- Partnering with a suitable civil society organization to establish the production and distribution centres in the neem-shed areas and to conduct promotion work.
The project approach consisted of national coordination arrangement, training activities for stakeholders, technology transfer to three national technical partners, conducted field trials and Phytotoxicity studies, generated crop-specific bio-efficacy data, established three Neem centres with production demonstration plants, dissemination of the standardized technology for seed collection and neem-derived bio-pesticide production, and activities to support for replication and scaling-up.
- Neem census to assess neem seed potential of the neem-shed areas and pinpoint focus locations for future up-scaling had been conducted: neem seeds had been collected, neem nurseries were successfully set up, neem was adopted as new innovation in the agricultural and reforestation programme nationwide (Sierra Leone).
- Low cost production technology for neem-based pesticides had been transferred to national technical partners at three countries (University of Ghana, Ghana; Njala University, Sierra Leone; and the Federal Ministry of Environmental, Nigeria).
- Bio-evaluation of Neem Kernel Aqueous Extract (NKAE) technology through scientific field trials under varied agro-climatic conditions in each participating country had been carried out. Trials had been made for cowpea, cucumber, okra, maize, pepper and cowpea crop. In Nigeria, yield data shows a higher yield for the 1.5% neem treatment against all other treatments including the standard check (synthetic pesticides). The effectiveness of the neem- derived pesticides had been proved.
- Demonstration of the neem- derived pesticides on different crops in the farmers' fields had been implemented in selected areas in the three countries through hand-on practical experiences.
- Mechanized demonstration plants (depulper, decorticators, crushers, storage facilities) for production of neem-derived pesticides had been setup: machineries bought, installed and tested. Operators of the machineries were trained.
- Necessary equipment/training material to Neem Centres for training the farmers and promoting neem-derived pesticides were provided. Awareness and training programs with field demonstration for farming communities conducted.
This project had been used as a model for the UNIDO/GEF regional projects in COMESA and SADC on “Capacity Strengthening and Technical Assistance for the Implementation of SC National Implementation Plans (NIPs) in African Least Developed Countries (LDCs) of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Sub-Region”. In which, a regional strategy on production and application of neem-based and other bio-pesticides was developed.