Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Ethiopia hopes more cash from Neem tree

Almost a century after Neem tree, commonly known in Ethiopia as Kinin Zaf, entered Ethiopia; it is realizing the benefit of the tree following a lecture organized by Neem Foundation of Ethiopia as a part of its awareness creation and technology transfer objectives. The Foundation has networked with an Indian business and academic delegation which presented their immense experience in Neem technology and research last Friday.
“Ethiopia has unlimited potential for the plantation of Neem tree which grows in humid, arid, and hot places having an altitude of up to 1,500 meters above sea level. India which is the birth place of the tree rakes in 2.5 billon dollars annually from the sale of Azadirachtin [a chemical extracted from the tree] alone. The tree has enormous advantages from agriculture to medicine, from industry to the environment. Its use is really countless. If we work on it, we will have another item for export on our list. The visits would enable the Foundation and the nation to tap into a very valuable technology and knowledge transfer opportunity,” argued Taye Teferedegn (PhD), Chairman of Neem foundation of Ethiopia.
According to people in the bio medicine industry, one kilogram of Azadirachtin is currently sold at around 1,200 dollars on the international market. Medicine from the tree is known in Ethiopia for lack of side effects like other imported trees of eucalyptus which have the potential to dry up underground water.   
Neem Foundation of Ethiopia is a non-governmental organization established by Ethiopian scientists in 1995 to promote Neem tree in Ethiopia. Since its establishment, the Foundation has carried out various activities to expand the plantation of Neem trees in lowland and arid areas of the country.
The Foundation organized a public lecture by Dr. Ramesh C. Saxena at Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development headquarters; and Addis Ababa University, Arat Kilo Campus, Geological Sciences Lecture Room, December 30, 2011.
Senior industry figures were in attendance including EID Parry India Ltd leaders, a huge Indian pest control company that focuses on the industrial extraction of Azadirachtin, the essential ingredient extracted from Neem tree. The company aspires to discover the opportunities in the development and processing of the tree in Ethiopia in its bid to boost its direct investment in Ethiopia.
The Foundation has set a five year plan to plant over one million Neem trees in at least three regional states of the country and start the extraction of Azadirachtin and the production of various Neem bi-products. The Foundation, with the support of donors, had planted over 150,000 Neem seedlings in Afra Regional State over  the last four years.
The delegation has been scheduled for a visit to Awash Valley in Oromia National Regional State and the future site of the Foundation’s nursery establishment in Awash Arba. Awash Valley is part of the Great Rift Valley and it is one of Ethiopia’s vast hot and arid areas that is suitable for Neem plantation.
“The tree species entered Ethiopia at the beginning of 19 century. It is very versitile. It has medicinal value in addition to economic. It can produce timber and firewood while at the same time absorbing carbon and helping with land conservation.  It did not receive as much attention as it should have in order to maximize its benefits. We are currently working with Neem Foundation of Ethiopia to make of use of its advantages exhaustively in the future,” said Sertse Sibuh, Forestry Case Team Coordinator at the Ministry of Agriculture.    
From 1991 to 2000, Dr. Saxena worked as senior principal scientist at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Kenya where he coordinated a 1.79 Million dollar Neem Awareness Project in Sub-Saharan Africa funded by the Government of Finland and the UNEP. The Project contributed to mitigating rural poverty through dissemination and diffusion of Neem technology for better plant, animal, human, and environmental health. He received an MS in Tropical Agriculture from University of Hawaii and a PhD in Entomology from Delhi University.   Dr. Ramesh C. Saxena is an Indian national renowned for his bio pest control initiative both in India and globally.