We started growing neem when the National Academy Press published a book called “Neem: A Tree for Solving Global Problems.” Twenty-five years later, it may be more important than ever!
Most people think of neem as a pretty specific product – capsule, soap, lotion, pesticide – without really understanding the versatility of this amazing tree.
To some degree, that happens at Neem Tree Farms, even though we deal with it practically 24/7. We look at neem from a product perspective: most tummy troubles go away with neem capsules, neem soap clears up non-cystic acne almost immediately and neem oil wipes out more than 200 insect pests with a totally non-toxic treatment (less concentrated, in fact, that what we use in our lotions and creams).
We just joined the World Neem Organization, created to promote the various uses of neem around the world, and were reminded of how important this tree is in the developing world – and what an important role in could play for all of us.
In both India and Africa, where neem grows freely, it’s called the “Village Pharmacy” or the “Tree of 40 Cures.” Our Hindu friends use it in their religious ceremonies, and buy trees as baby and house-warming gifts.
Along with its medicinal benefits (which are not FDA approved but you can learn more here), one of its most important benefits over the coming decades may be its potential to mitigate global warming — a topic not even touched in the original book.
Neem grows almost anywhere it doesn’t freeze or have standing water year-round. According to the WNO, a single six-year-old neem tree can sequester more than 12 tons of carbon per year – plus provide an income of nearly $200 per acre selling neem leaf and oil.
That may not sound like much until you look at places like the Sahara Desert – already at 3,600,000 square miles, an area comparable to the entire U.S. or China. Neem already is naturalizing in parts of it where nothing else would grow, literally creating shady oases where people and other plants can thrive.
If scientific models are correct, even more of the world will become like the Sahara, so hot and dry where few crops can survive. The Sahara is already expanding by nearly 6,000 square miles per year and models call for that number to grow exponentially.
The average number of food emergencies in Africa per year has almost tripled since the mid-1980s, and in the last year alone 25 million people faced a food crisis. Nearly 90% of Africans depend upon agriculture for their livelihoods – drought and higher temperatures will only acerbate the issues they’re already facing.
And as more and more people discover the benefits of neem, it could become critically important cash crop that requires very little up-front investment. The world is already facing a shortage of neem – prices rise nearly every day because of the limited supply facing increasing demand from people who realize the benefits of a non-toxic pesticide that’s been used as a medicinal herb for nearly 5,000 years.
There are even significant benefits for people living in the southern U.S. where air-borne sand from the Sahara creates dangerously high air pollution and is implicated in the longest-running Red Tide ever, which has killed billions of fish and cost coastal communities untold dollars in tourism this year alone.
It’s also an option for other parts of the world, like Haiti, where shade is valued but firewood is necessary. Neem growing on a hillside can be coppiced for firewood but its roots remain alive and in place to prevent the erosion that kills hundreds of people in hurricanes.
We’re not “boots on the ground” kind of people but if this column touches your heart, please contact us for whatever assistance we can provide. Or, if you read this and need help, please reach out so we can connect you with the people who can help make a difference in your lives.