The Medical and Economic Importance of Neem Exploitation in Tropical Africa

The tree crop Neem has remained one of the most important tree crop grown in tropical Africa. This is largely due to the pharmaceutical and economic significance of this cash crop in the lives of millions of Africans living south of the Sahara. Interestingly, this crop survives in virtually all environments within the savanna belt making it a very useful crop as a pharmaceutical raw material and as an agent of combating climate change. Neem represents a force in the medical field as its application can be vividly seen in the treatment of malaria, typhoid and flu. Locally, inhabitants of the area where this crop is found usually cut the leaves and the bark in their pharmaceutical preparations for the control of malaria and other common ailments. This they achieve by boiling these plant parts and drinking the resultant liquid at regular and prescribed intervals until relief from such an ailment is achieved.

In modern medical fields, the extracts of this tree crop is used in pharmaceutical preparations in laboratories across the world especially in China where traditional and natural medicine practice is common. It has been used in the preparation of anti malarial drugs, antibiotics and antifungal drugs. These drugs have been refined extensively and have become a major alternative to the synthetic drug preparations found in pharmacies.

Neem represents a wonderful source of economic emancipation for the people as its potentials could be harnessed for greater economic value. The exploitation of this plant could serve as source foreign exchange earnings for the government and people of countries where they are grown. Within the savanna belt of tropical Africa, Neem is grown extensively and sometimes forms long canopies along major roads and streets. Nigeria, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Chad, Central African republic, Morocco and Sudan are countries with huge presence of this novel plant.

Neem could also be deployed as an instrument to combat desertification hence check climate change. This is possible because the plant is extensively grown and can survive very long periods of drought and other harsh conditions. It can help protect the earth from the devastating effect of the sun’s ultraviolet rays by removing green house gases such as carbon dioxide that depletes the earth’s ozone layer.

Governments within the sub-Sahara region of Africa must take advantage of this important tree crop and formulate concrete policies that would enhance the fortunes of the citizens by harnessing the rich potentials Neem in health care delivery. Traditional and natural pharmaceutical companies must be encouraged to exploit potentials of the Neem plant. This can be in form of loan facilities, research grants and Training expositions. Furthermore, Trade Fairs could be organized to show case the natural products derived from Neem extracts and integrate Traditional and natural health care products into the national health care delivery system.