The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) has begin a training programme for farmers in Katsina on how to make biopesticides and fertiliser from neem.
The programme is holding at UNIDO Neem Biopesticide Centre at Hasan Usman Katsina Polytechnic.
About 50 farmers took part in the pilot phase of the scheme.
Neem or nimtree (azadirachta indica) popularly called bedi or darbejiya in Hausa is a common tree in northern Nigeria.
The biopesticide developed from neem has been certified by UNIDO as a cheaper, safer and viable alternative to synthetic persistent organic pollutants for sustainable management of fungal and bacterial diseases of crops and livestock. It is also effective for the control of soil-borne nematodes and dreaded parasitic weeds like striga hermonthica and striga gesneroides.
The Assistant Coordinator of the centre, Abubakar Usman, said the project was aimed at promoting the use and development of eco-friendly and cost effective pesticide derived fron neem kernels that was an effective alternative to toxic chemical pesticides.
He said it was a simple process that started from harvesting the neem fruits, processing them to producing the pesticides.
“It’s simple: get the neem kernel, break it and crush it, leave it over night in water then mix it with soap and it’s ready to use,” he said.
He said its simplicity and effectiveness made it unique and that it had since been used in countries like India. He said that made UNIDO to sponsor its production industrially in Nigeria.
He said the nutrients from neem helped plants to grow well as it enhanced soil fertility thereby giving increased yield.
Dr. Abdullahi Yar’adua, a crop protection expert from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, who has been part of the project, said it was realised that Nigeria, especially the northern part, had large number of neem trees just like India, which is earning about $2.5bn from its products.
“This was the major challenging drive for this new initiative. In India they have about 19 million of such trees whereas in Katsina alone we have close to 13 million trees and yet we are getting zero kobo.
“We have the trees and the manpower. All we need is the commitment and goodwill from all stakeholders so that our abandoned and wasting neem plants can be put to economic use,” he said.
“Katsina alone, with its over 13 million neem trees can earn about $2bn and you can see that it is good money that can contribute to our national development,” he added.
The Rector of the Polytechnic, Dr. Ibrahim Kurfi, said crop pests and diseases were presenting formidable challenges to the West African Region.
Dr. Kurfi said research and development on neem biopesticide technology at the polytechnic dated back to 1983 and that by April 1991, its neem biopesticides were exhibited at polytechnics’ exposition at the Yaba College of Technology and subsequently at several other science fora.
He said it was not neem alone, but sickle pod plants (cassia obtusifolia) called tafasa in Hausa, as well as (cassia senna) tafasar masar, had all been tested and developed and proven to be effective biopesticides.
“What is needed now is for entrepreneurs to be identified, mobilised and empowered to invest in industrial production of neem biopesticides to address the unnecessary importation of agricultural chemicals (Persistant Organic Pollutants) which the 2001 Stockholm Convention is working against, that can better be replaced with safer and cheaper alternatives,” he said.
This is a great opportunity for the private sector to take advantage of the state’s neem trees and the plan to commence massive production.
Some farmers said they were shocked and amazed to learn that the popular neem had so much potential to offer; especially in agriculture.