GNFC’s neem project set to be introduced in six more states
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Ahmedabad: A successful central government-backed project to exploit the curative properties of the neem tree in Gujarat, generating rural employment in the process, is ready to be rolled out to six other states.
Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd (GNFC), which is implementing the neem project, aims to introduce the model in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra in the next few months, according to GNFC managing director Rajiv Gupta.
The project, which helps implement Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of 100% coating of Urea, has so far created supplementary income of about Rs15 crore for 125,000 rural poor in Gujarat.
According to GNFC, under the project rural poor, particularly women, collect neem fruits and GNFC pays them a fair price for it. These are then processed and made into neem cakes and neem oil.
The neem oil is used to coat urea, which gives farmers added protection for their crops. In the process, the project has helped to check corrupt practices under which chemical producers would siphon off urea meant for farmers at a cheap price and use it for their own chemical production.
The neem project has been lauded in a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) impact assessment survey which concluded that there has been significant decrease in domestic violence, and an increase in asset creation and education expenditure. It has been hailed as an example in community-led transformation.
It highlights how this project has benefitted rural women by generating income of about Rs7,000 per month or more.
Gujarat has approximately 45 million neem trees, according to a 2013 Tree Census by the state forest department. Each neem tree yields between 10-25kg of seeds in a season.
“This year the neem project will create supplementary income of about Rs75 crore. The project was started as part of our CSR activity however its tremendous success has made it grow to the size that is comparable to our other business verticals. In the next three years or so it has a potential to become a Rs500 crore business,” Gupta, an IAS officer said at his office in Gandhinagar. He added that most of the profits from the neem project go to the rural people involved in it.
In May 2015, the Union ministry of chemicals and fertilizers made it mandatory for all indigenous producers of urea to neem-coat all the urea they produce or import. Once the urea is neem coated, it cannot be pilfered by middlemen because it is useless to chemical producers. This brings the added advantage of farmers requiring 10% less urea and the land benefits from the nutritional value of neem.
“GNFC turned the Indian government’s decision into an opportunity and embarked on the neem project as a backward integration project to manufacture neem oil and organic neem cake fertilizer,” Gupta said.
Instead of using the more common route of buying neem oil to coat urea, GNFC under the neem project, tapped into neem trees in the state. It involved the rural poor, mostly landless labourers and specifically women in neem seed collection. The collectors sell the seeds at the nearby village level collection centres (VLCCs). These seeds are transported through a well-established supply chain to the oil expelling and extraction units. The oil extracted is used not only for coating urea but also in manufacturing a range of products such as neem cake fertilizers, neem soap, neem oil for personal care and domestic use, neem repellent and neem pesticide.
The model adopted by GNFC has motivated many other states and companies to come forward for the implementation of similar development projects and they have gotten in touch with GNFC for support, according to Gupta.
The department of fertilizers (DoF) has directed all 18 lead fertilizer suppliers (LFS) operating in 25 states to scale up this project model in the country, according to Gupta. The DoF in a landmark policy decision has also directed that neem oil for coating urea can only be purchased from genuine producers of neem oil.