Natural Crop Protection in the Tropics
Letting Information Come to Life
Letting information come to life
Letting information come to life
Development Process of a Small-Scale Neem Processing Plant:
GTZ Experience in Kenya
by Dr. Peter Förster
During the past decades, GTZ (Gesellschaft für technische Zusammenarbeit, the German technical cooperation agency) has promoted extensively the utilization of neem as a home-made plant protection product. In cooperation with scientists, extension workers and farmers the development of simple, home-made extracts has been studied, tested and improved. The resulting recommendations are being promoted through a number of GTZ projects.
Background situation and context
An extensive analysis of the acceptance of this approach led to the recognition that only between 5 and 10% of the farmers who have learned about the proper use of simple, home-made neem extracts have continued to use them regularly. The GTZ Pesticide Service Project identified in this analysis a number of shortcomings, such as:
Knowledge of the uses of neem is not yet widely disseminated.
Often neem is not available at sites where pest problems are most severe, e.g. in the uplands or in humid regions.
The harvesting time of neem fruits tends to coincide with the time when farmers are already busy with other farm activities.
The drying and storing of neem seeds requires extra work.
There are doubts of the effectivity of neem because it does not produce immediate 'knock-down' effects.
There are technical problems with the preparation and application of neem extracts, particularly the clogging of the nozzles.
The available commercial neem products are generally too expensive in comparison to conventional pesticides.
Commercial neem products are available on the market to a very limited degree only.
The use of home-made products is regarded as old-fashioned.
Some of these bottlenecks can be addressed through:
improving access to information.
suitable training & extension approaches and methodologies which also provide backup support over the longer term.
However, for some of the identified problems, particularly the access to neem products anytime and anywhere and the confidence in the effectiveness of neem, the production of standardized and low-cost commercially available products is another answer. In addition, the local production of neem-based pesticides supports the development of local industries.
Motivation and expectations of farmers
More and more farmers are interested in new approaches to crop protection because they are faced with decreasing effectiveness of synthetic pesticides due to increasing resistance of insects, they are faced with their own health problems, but also with a rising consumer pressure to produce residue-free products. A growing awareness about the environment, and positive results with the effectiveness of neem in the control of problematic insects such as leaf miners and nematodes, lead to a growing interest and pride in using locally available products. In situations where farmers are cash-strapped, they are forced-motivated into using home-made extracts. However, as soon as they can afford it, they will tend to choose commercially available neem products.
Possibilities of using the Neem tree
Against this background, the IPM Horticulture Project in Kenya, in cooperation with the Pesticide Service Project of the GTZ, conceptualized a project which had as objective the development and production of standardized neem products which are fully registered and competitive on the market with major synthetic pesticides.
In a first step the availability of neem was assessed. Furthermore, it was investigated who among the Extension Service and NGOs had knowledge of neem, worked already with neem or was interested in a cooperation.
In a second step, detailed data were collected on availability, quantity and quality of neem, on potential stakeholders and cooperators (collectors, promoters, processors, marketers and users) as well as on the establishment of a processing unit, locally available technical components etc. As a result, suitable districts with sufficient neem supplies were identified. Through comparing different scenarios it was identified that the collection of neem seeds in a centralized manner was more cost-effective. Constructing several decentralized processing units would have increased the costs unrealistically. The central pilot processing plant was decided to be constructed in Nairobi. The risk of the neem seeds developing the fungus Aspergillus flavus, which produces the carcinogenic aflatoxins, is much lower in the highlands near Nairobi than in the lowlands where the neem trees are predominantly found.
The next step focused on the design of the approach. The cooperators were selected, responsibilities negotiated and agreed upon. In this process local farmer and women organizations from the identified districts participated as well as representatives of local administrations and traditional leaders. During this process awareness was raised about the usefulness of neem and thus the overall support strengthened. Central at this stage was the identification of a committed entrepreneur and visionary officials who became the driving force.
Once this framework had been shaped, seed collection was initiated. A system with several collection points was established which was run by local agents. These agents acted as small local entrepreneurs who bought seeds from local collectors and who sold to the processor for a surcharge. During the collection period seeds were dispatched every 2–3 days from the collection points to the processing unit using public transportation.
Interested collectors were trained on how to collect, clean, dry and store neem seeds in order to secure good quality. The price for the seeds was determined by the quality. This proved quite useful for maintaining a good quality of the raw product. However, with increasing demand, the collectors tried to drive up the price which conflicted with the objective of providing a product that can compete with the price of synthetic pesticides.
Once the seeds have arrived in the store at the processing unit, the seed moisture content is controlled and – if too moist – seeds are sun-dried until the right seed moisture content of ca. 8–10% is obtained.
The concentration of the major active compound Azadirachtin varies greatly depending on the site from where the seeds are collected. Alltogether, the concentration of this active substance is high in Kenya.
The printed version contains more information about the following themes:
The pilot processing plant
Conclusions and recommendations
© Margraf Publishers 2003