Modi’s ‘neem project’ boosts Gujarat rural jobs
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision of making it mandatory for domestic fertiliser firms to ‘neem coat’ urea production has not only made available fertiliser freely in the market, but it has also opened huge employment opportunities for over six lakh rural poor in the past three years, especially women in his own home-State.
Responding to PM Modi’s idea, the State-owned Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilisers & Chemicals (GNFC) resorted to a backward integration exercise to develop captive neem oil and organic neem cake fertiliser facility. In the process the Bharuch-based unit set an example of women empowerment through its ‘neem project’ initiative.
“GNFC is the first fertiliser producer in India to implement the objective of neem coating in totality. The neem coating of urea also helps to prevent pilferage coupled with reduction of its applications other than fertiliser. Neem coated urea also protects crops from diseases and it controls deterioration of soil fertility,” says GNFC Managing Director Dr Rajiv Kumar Gupta, who is also Additional Chief Secretary with Gujarat Government’s Labour and Employment department.
According to Dr Gupta in the past three years additional income of Rs 45 crore generated for more than six lakh people in the State in rural areas. Of these 4.5 lakh people are getting direct employment. There was a shortage of pure Neem oil earlier. Moreover the neem oil trade was dominated by unscrupulous traders who sold cheap oils like palm oil, cotton-seed oil, rice bran oil and even cutting oil available for Rs 25-30 per litre as neem oil with impunity by adding neem leaf powder and selling this spurious oil for Rs 100 a litre.
For the production of neem oil, GNFC requires huge quantity of neem seeds. It was not easy.
Collection of neem seeds was the biggest challenge. Finally it was decided to undertake neem mapping of Gujarat. Suitably, neem is the second most abundant tree found in Gujarat which according to a tree census report, has around 45 million neem trees. Each neem tree yields between 10 to 25 kg of neem seeds in a season. However logistically it was a mammoth task to collect neem seeds in such a huge quantity. Finally the GNFC think tank found way by utilizing community structures for collection of seeds from the villages where density of neem trees was higher.
“We approached self-help groups, sakhi mandals, milk cooperative societies, water committees and even forest department collection centres,” says Gupta, adding that suddenly we found that collection of neem seed is win-win situation of GNFC as well as thousands of rural poor who got opportunity to utilize their free time in economic activities.
From their earning through neem seed collections many ladies who never earned single penny in whole lives, purchased buffaloes, cows, carts and some of them even started their shops. Not only their control and respect within families increased, but incidents of domestic violence too reduced drastically, adds Gupta. In fact United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had also gauged the success of project by observing increase of about 56 per cent in women’s income and reduction of violence cases. Each woman earns Rs 1000 to Rs 8000, depending on her contribution in the neem collection process.
With the success of Neem Project in Gujarat, GNFC spread its wings in states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. We are also planning to reach Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh in coming days with the view to scale up neem oil production, he says.
There are about 2,200 neem seed collection centres across 4,000 villages in Gujarat. Once operations in other seven states would be in full swing there would be 11,000 centres across India. As per an estimate neem oil requirement of the country is 26000 metric tonnes in order to neem coat 31 million MT urea consumption in India annually.
Last year, through Neem Project 23000 MT seeds were collected from Gujarat and other States and 2500 MT neem oil extracted through it at Bharuch. In the three years total 45000 MT seeds collected by rural poor and nearly 4800 MT neem oil extracted.
Inspired by the GNFC’s success story, other major fertiliser producers including IFFCO are mulling to replicate the project. After the success of its backward integration, GNFC has also started forward integration by creating facility for neem-oil based consumer products including hair oil, neem soap, shampoo, hand-wash to name a few where more number of people have started getting employment.
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