Indo Maman’s grandsons begin their day energized by breakfast at school and with their extra fees and school supplies paid.
Sa’a Moussa purchased fertilizer to grow her crops strong and bought clothes for her grandchildren.
Aicha Mahaman purchased clothes for herself and her children, but the sheep she acquired will provide much return for the entire family.
New opportunity from a familiar landscape
Indo, Sa’a, and Aicha live in the African Sahel, in small villages in the Maradi region of Niger. Each are experiencing new opportunities afforded through an oval-shaped seed from a tree they’ve known since childhood.
The Neem tree stands tall throughout this south-central section of Niger. Its oblong shaped leaves appear almost palm like as they sway in the breeze and provide welcoming shade. Hanging from those palm-like branches are the seed of the Neem, the women’s seed of opportunity.
The seeds of the Neem tree provide natural protection against insects including the legume pod borer, a pest that attacks cowpea fields and can account for up to 80% crop loss. Cowpea is an important crop in this region. Researchers, led by Dr. Manuele Tamò from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Benin in collaboration with Prof. Ibrahim Baoua from the University of Maradi and Dr. Amadou Laouali from INRAN, Maradi, have been working to develop innovative cowpea pest management solutions that incorporate non-synthetic pesticide options.
Innovation that empowers
The Neem seed alternatives have also proved to be a great success in providing economic opportunities, especially for the women of rural Niger. Women like Indo, Sa’a, and Aicha. They and others have learned to harvest the seeds and manufacture them into natural pesticide packets.
“The ‘neem tea bag’ was developed and tested with success by our Niger collaborators,” explains Dr. Tamò. “We’ve expanded tea bag production into new communities and are seeing a potential to create a whole bio-pesticide value chain, creating job opportunities for women and youth.” The project was funded through the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research managed by Michigan State University.