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Neem Oil: A Micro-Enterprise Opportunity for Nigerian Women

Posted On: June 27, 2024

To mark International Micro-, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Day, we are shining a spotlight on the women in Nigeria who are seizing entrepreneurial opportunities in neem oil production.

Murjanatu’s Story

Murjanatu Rabiu proudly presents some of the neem oil she will sell.

For 25-year-old Murjanatu Rabiu, the neem tree has opened a new avenue for business. A mother of two from the community of Mabuga in Kaduna state, Murjanatu already ran a small kuli-kuli (bean cake) business.

With her husband’s encouragement, she joined a local women’s group, where she learned from East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation (EWS-KT) how to extract oil from the neem tree’s seeds. An effective natural pesticide, neem oil is becoming popular among farmers. Now Murjanatu successfully operates her neem oil and kuli-kuli businesses, helping to support her family and giving her a measure of financial independence.

Opportunities in Neem Oil Production

EWS-KT works in Kaduna and Kano states to share effective vegetable farming techniques with smallholder farmers. For many women, this is their first introduction to the agricultural sector. While most women use the skills and knowledge they gain to become vegetable farmers, others focus on related entrepreneurial activities like seedling production or neem oil extraction.

The neem oil production process begins with the fruits from the neem tree, which contain oil-bearing seeds. After harvesting the fruits, neem oil entrepreneurs separate the seeds from the fruit pulp and dry them. They then process the seeds to remove the outer layers and crush or grind the seeds into a paste. Finally, they press or squeeze the paste to extract the oil. The oil is then filtered and poured into containers for sale.

Farmers seeking safe and effective products for crop protection are a reliable market for neem oil entrepreneurs. Using neem oil as a biopesticide minimizes the use of synthetic pesticides and protects human health and the environment. The residue left over from extracting the oil can become another source of income for producers, as it helps to control termites.

Fatima’s Story

Neem oil producer Fatima Usman (left) with EWS-KT facilitator Nana Safiyya Ya’u.

The opportunity to become a neem oil producer has also benefited 35-year-old Fatima Usman, a petty trader from the Tudun Wada community in Kaduna state. Guided by female facilitators from EWS-KT, Fatima dived into neem oil extraction.

With an initial investment of just 2,000 naira to purchase neem seeds, Fatima’s debut in this new line of work yielded a profit of 6,000 naira, which fueled her determination to continue to pursue this entrepreneurial opportunity. Neem oil has now become her business focus, and she envisions empowering fellow women by involving them in neem oil production.

Supporting Neem Oil Entrepreneurs

Under the Transforming Nigeria’s Vegetable Markets project, which is supported by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), EWS-KT takes a multipronged approach to introducing women to neem oil opportunities.

Activities include providing hands-on training to groups of interested women, dedicating radio shows to neem oil production and its benefits, and printing posters with step-by-step instructions on neem oil extraction. In addition to providing training in the mechanics of producing neem oil, EWS-KT offers business planning training to support successful entrepreneurial ventures by enterprising women like Murjanatu and Fatima.

Practicing neem oil extraction in Makarfi Local Government Area, Kaduna.