Neem Tree Assessment for Socioeconomic Empowerment in Rural Burkina Faso
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The many uses of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica) include health, pesticide, and soil amending applications, however neem is underutilized by certain Bissa communities of South-Central Burkina Faso, herein referred to as Moléntah. This research aims to address informational gaps and facilitate community development of neem tree products for diversification of economic activity and improved quality of life. My master’s project is based on work completed during the summer of 2009 in rural Burkina Faso, West Africa, where I worked in conjunction with local Moléntah community members to raise the profile of neem as a useful natural resource. The study was designed as participatory learning and action research to inform best practices for those community members interested in processing neem. The approach is based on broad-based, sustainable community development, emphasizing the interlocking nature of all sectors of life, now and in the future, as well as the importance of community participation in shaping processes according to local knowledge of assets, needs, and desires. Together we inventoried the local neem resource base, identified market pathways, and piloted seed collection and oil extraction processes. We thereby demonstrated the local feasibility of utilizing the naturalized neem tree for socioeconomic activity with income generation potential. Neem efforts were successful despite challenges, including: conflicting accounts of best practices for processing neem, seasonal constraints on neem availability and community participation, and immature markets. This work is significant on a variety of levels. Scientific inventories of neem trees and associated measurements are rare within the literature; this research provides a baseline from which future growth and usage patterns could be studied. The action learning process of piloting neem as a socioeconomic resource draws attention to constraints limiting development of neem not only in Moléntah but potentially also in other developing country or rural settings. Most importantly, this work served to introduce the value of an underutilized natural resource to four villages; transferred capacity to recognize and build the local asset base; developed project planning and natural resource management skills within Moléntah; and empowered enterprising participants to operationalize ecosystem services into productive socioeconomic potential.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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