It may look strange to you but I want to authoritatively tell you that the campaign by the Federal Government of Nigeria to popularize the growth of high quality species of the Dogon Yaro tree seems to have taken a downward turn. This tree commonly known in Nigeria as Dogon Yaro is a tree specie of the Mahogany family (Meliacea) called the Neem Tree.
A native to India and Burma, both in the tropical South East Asia, Neem tree is botanically called “Azadirachta Indica”, an evergreen tree, usually between 10 and 15 metres high and maturity has a dense and large rounded crown. As an extraordinary tree, the Neem thrives in areas with annual rainfall of between 400mm and 1500mm. The strands of the tree exist mainly in the savanna ecosystems in Nigeria, serving mostly as a source of environmental stabilization and wind breaks, particularly in checking desert encroachment.
In the forest belt, where they grow freely, they are used in herbal preparations for malaria treatment and as firewood. The tree has other commercial uses as it serves as a raw material for the production of soaps, organic fertilizers, toothpaste, medicine and food supplements. Researchers have also carried out some studies on the Neem tree to document information on how best to transform the plant into wealth. From the ongoing researches, it is discovered that the tree has other active ingredients that are suitable for the production of pesticides, cosmetics, fertilizer, birth control agents, etc.
Neem tree, which hitherto was largely seen only as a tree for preventing desert encroachment is today discovered to be a potentially major source of foreign exchange. This wonder tree therefore, could be extremely an important tool for poverty eradication, environmental protection as well as a major agricultural and industrial component for achieving our national economic development.
As exotic and versatile specie introduced in Nigeria since early 1920s, the role of the government and that of the private sector in achieving the full economic and industrial potentials of this important tree should be encouraged. The government should however sustain its initiative of Transforming Neem Tree to Wealth by encouraging, sensitizing and wooing the private sector operators towards this important sector. Also ensuring adequate plantation of Neem tree annually within the next 15 years will help sustain its industrial development.
However, funds should be made available and more importantly, accessible to investors so as to achieve the set Millennium Develoment Goals (MDGs).
Vitus Ejiogu is a writer and publisher with the Fire-Brand Int”l Ministries, a media ministry that is based in Nigeria.
He is the editor of FOUNDATION SATELLITE magazine also published by the ministry. He pastors a Church in Bauchi and is married with two children.