For thousands of years, neem leaves, the bark, neem oil, and the flowers have been used in hundreds of different ways ranging from the prevention of infection in a wound to acting as a pesticide protecting essential crops. In celebration of International Women’s Day, we focus on how this marvelous gift of nature has improved the livelihood of thousands of women across around the world.
In India, fertilizer for farming is subsidized by the government to promote and support local farmers in several communities. However, these farmers were over-utilizing the country’s most common fertilizer, urea. Urea is a nitrogen-based fertilizer in the shape of a small, white pellet. This was draining the government’s funds for the fertilizer, making it scarce, and creating an overabundance of nitrogen in the ground, which leads to severe soil degradation and ultimately depressed yields. The government has now coated these white pellets in neem oil. The neem slows the release of the nitrogen, making the fertilizer more effective and requiring fewer applications.
With so much neem in demand, there has been a gap in the collection of the neem fruit and seeds, which is used to make the oil. The Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers and Chemicals have created a project to empower women through neem. The project has been awarded the Golden Peacock Award for Corporate Social Responsibility and the SKOCH Blue Economy Platinum Sustainability Award for its work and support of these rural women. In the first year, 2015-2016, the project helped 100,000 women and is now spread out in 1,200 groups across 4,000 villages! The United Nations deemed the project as a viable Rural Income Generating Activity, and with the demand of neem oil and neem cake high in India and surrounding areas, this program will continue to give women financial independence, allowing women to pursue their dreams. Their target over the next two years is to collect 40,000 metric tons of seeds from Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh. The GNFC are also working with over 5,000 Indian retailers in the production and distribution of neem products.