Neem, Azadirachta indica is native to Africa. In Ghana, it grows to 12-24 m high at altitudes between 50 and 100 m with 130 mm of sufficient rainfall per annum for its normal growth. Neem is used in India and is utilized in rice cultivation here in Ghana. The compounds in its seeds, bark and leaves, are proven to have antiseptic, antiviral, anti-pyretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer and anti-fungal uses.
Today Neem is recognized as a natural product that has much to offer in solving global agricultural, environmental and public health problems. Natural properties of neem do not have any toxic reactions, so they are helpful in plant protection and management. Products derived from Neem act as powerful Insect Growth Regulators (IGR) and also help in controlling several nematodes and fungi. Neem products reduce insect growth in crops and plants. Neem products are used as neem insecticide, neem pesticide, neem pest fumigant, neem fertilizer, neem manure, neem compost, neem urea coating agent and neem soil conditioner.
Fall Army Worm invasion and it damage in Ghana
Since 2016 Ghana has been affected by an invasion of fall army worms, a pest that is causing huge damage to crops across the continent and threatening food security. The pests have destroyed more than 1,370 hectares of maize, cowpea and cocoa farms in the Brong Ahafo, Ashanti and western regions of the country so far this year, according to the agricultural ministry.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said the pest has destroyed 90,000 hectares of maize in Zambia, 130,000 hectares in Zimbabwe, and 87,000 hectares in Kenya and in Ghana, particularly the northern part, where these pests are causing similar mayhem. The fall army worm is not actually a worm. It is a hungry caterpillar that eats crops before it turns into a moth. The adult moths lay their eggs on seedlings and plant leaves.
The Ghana Agricultural Ministry says it will need 16 million cedis ($4 million) to fight the outbreak, half of which will go into the purchase of chemicals, with the remainder being used on education.
In my view, this can be tackled locally, without massive investments on purchase of synthetic pesticides. The local farmer when aware of the symptoms of the worms or caterpillars on their crops, could use a neem tree extract (leaves, bark, seeds) solution which is accessible and effectively and efficiently kills these worms or caterpillars. These indigenous pesticide is chemical free, has no long term effect on crops that some synthetic chemicals can have and, as well be an initiative own by the local farmer. The Neem tree is readily accessible to the local farmer hence the only task left to be done are;
- Sensitize farmers on the growth cycles on of the worm, symptoms and extent of damage
- Help farmers prepare an extract of neem tree products
- Frequency of the application of the extract-solution of the crops
- Further application of extracts on stored produce
If the worm or caterpillar cycles are not killed at the onset, secondary application of the products on the crops, even when stored, can remove this [pest] permanently and without any synthetic chemical effect. Farmers, once they have used these measure to ensure there is no re-occurrence, should understand and be able to implement at a low cost.
In the medium to long term Neem products have a wide variety of use especially in agriculture. I am planning to make environmentally-friendly Neem products (neem pest fumigant, neem fertilizer, neem manure and neem compost) accessible to farmers .
Mahama Al-Rauf, Ghana