Parvatiben Rathod, resident of Devkaran Na Muvada village of Gandhinagar district in Gujarat, is a small vegetable vendor. Parvatiben with a distinct smile tells Agriculture World, “It was very difficult for me to make the ends meet by selling vegetables. Three years back, I learned about this at a village meeting and  started to work on it.” Rathod along with other women from village worked from 6:00 am in the morning till late evening during the season and used to collect around 100 kg of this ubiquitous seed on Indian land, which scientifically is named after the country, Azadirachta indica. Adds Rathod,” I manage to earn around Rs.25,000 additional income with which I paid my debt last year. “

Another resident of Moti Adaraj village in Gandhinagar district, Gujarat, Anjana Tahkor says she is a farm labourer. She is earning Rs.100 to Rs.120 per day by working part-time. She further elaborated, “Now I am able to help my family with this additional income.”

Picking and collecting nimboli (neem seed) these women are securing smiles and good times for themselves. During the neem seed collection season( June-July) women work for 30 to 45 days. This is also the post-harvest season when the agricultural work is rare to find and this seed collection gives these ladies a respite from the plight of not earning enough. Most rural women who are associated with this neem project are landless farm labourers or daily wage earners or migrant labourers.

The collected neem seeds are brought to Village Level Collection Centres (VLCCs) setup by GNFC. Gujarat Narmada Fertilizers & Chemicals Limited (GNFC) is a Public Limited Company promoted jointly by the Government of Gujarat and the Gujarat State Fertilizers & Chemicals Ltd. (GSFC). ‘The Neem Project’ is conceived and executed by Dr. Rajiv Kumar Gupta who belongs to the Indian Administrative Service batch of 1986 and who currently is serving as the Managing director at GNFC.

After proper inspection of quality, payments are directly made to the Neem seed collector.These seeds are transported through a well-established supply chain, which includes Service Provider Partners and Intermediate Storage facilities, to the oil expelling and extraction unit at GNFC’s headquarters in Bharuch district of Gujarat for neem oil extraction, which is further used for coating urea.

In the last three years, since the neem project has started, more than INR 45 crore income has been generated for 4.5 lakh women in 53 districts across six states namely Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan an Uttar Pradesh, through neem seed collection. Also more than 2.5 lakh people have benefitted by indirect employment.

Fair collection of neem seeds has led the price to shot up from INR 2/- per kg to up to INR 16/- per kg, directly benefitting the collectors.

How the neem seeds are processed :

Collected neem seeds are stored and transported to GNFC’s Neem-oil extraction unit at Bharuch where further neem oil extraction is carried out and is utilised for Urea coating as per policy mandate.

With the surplus neem oil, which is left over after 100% neem coating, various neem based products are manufactured. At GNFC’s Neem complex at Bharuch various neem based products such as Neem Soap, Shampoo, hand wash, oil,  hair oil, face wash,  and organic manure are manufactured.

To add an interesting fact, the Neem Complex is fully operated by trained women from rural area around Bharuch district in Gujarat. The women have been trained and certified under the National Skill Development Corporation of Govt. of India.

Rural women who are participating in the neem seed collection activity are earning Rs. 2,000 to Rs.20, 000 based on the time they spent on neem seed collection.

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