Frugi's 1% for the planet donation is helping organic farmers

in Frugi news and organic cotton by

We had a lovely email today, from the Pesticide Action Network about how our 'Neem' mills are helping to produce natural pest control on organic farms in Africa.

Neem Mill

"I am writing from a rainy Cotonou having just spent the last week in

Benin visiting our project and checking up on things. I thought I’d
take advantage of an internet connection to give you an update because
while here I took the opportunity to visit two of the neem mills you
paid for: one in the village of Lohouelohouedji near Aklanpa in the
Glazoué district, and one in a village near Banikoara in the far north
of the country. I took plenty of pictures and will send them all when
I get back, but in the meantime I attach a couple so you can see your
mills in operation.

I met farmers in both villages and was able to hear in their own words
how the mills and organic cotton have changed their lives – it was a
really humbling experience.
The women in particular were really positive about the mills. They all
said that the mills had really reduced their workload. Grinding neem
is traditionally a woman’s role, while the men do the spraying. It is
hard work and they all reported that before they got the mill, they
would struggle to find time to do this work. They would have to come
home after a day in the fields and begin grinding – it was exhausting.
It is plain that the mills have made a dramatic improvement to their
quality of life.

The villages also use the mill to grind maize and even shea nuts to
make shea butter. This brings in extra income. In Banikoara, for
example, people from other villages bring pay to use the mill and the
village has set up a bank account to pay for maintenance of the mill
and other communal benefits. They are saving up to buy some cattle so
they can plough their fields – at the moment all the work is done by
hand.

But I’ll let the villagers themselves explain what the mills mean to them:-

Tchidi Adjoua, the secretary of the women’s organisation in
Lohouelohouedji (2nd from right in picture) said: “When the mill was
not there I was always tired. I would work all day helping my husband
and cook when I got home. Then I had to grind the neem because my
husband needed it to protect our crops the next day. Now it is much
easier – we also use the mill to grind cereals for our food so I am
not so tired”

The representative of the women’s group in Banikoara (I didn’t catch
her name but have asked davo to get it) said: “Sometimes we had to
hire other people to collect and grind the neem because we didn’t have
time ourselves – this hurt because we are poor, but we had to do it to
keep the insects away. Now we grind quickly and it is easy.”

During the week I also attended some training sessions on the food
spray like those that you paid for last year. Robert Mensah was here
again. Unfortunately we were unable to find enough funding to cover
all of the costs this year, so instead of holding separate trainings
in the different regions Robert stayed in Kandi for three weeks and
the farmers came to him. Robert also waived his fee this year and came
during his annual leave. We just paid for his travel and
accommodation.
The course was a big hit with the farmers because the spray is making
a huge difference to yields. As I write, Robert is about half way
through his visit and it looks like he will have trained 150 farmers
by the time he leaves.

As I say, the spray is proving a fantastic product (I attach a peer
reviewed paper Robert has written on the spray which details the
impact), but in summary, it shows that using neem alone allows farmers
to achieve yields of around 600kg/ha, but with the spray they can get
800kg/ha. But the really exciting thing (discovered in the last two
seasons) is that by using neem and the spray together they can boost
yields to 950 or even 1050kg/ha which is comparable to conventional
growers!! The best thing is that Robert has adapted the spray so the
farmers can make it themselves using local materials. The spray means
that organic farmers have a much higher profit margin than
conventional farmers who can spend up to 60% of their income on
pesticides and fertilisers.

I spoke to farmers before and after the training and they were all
really excited about what they had learned and couldn’t wait to get
home to train their fellow farmers – some villages had clubbed
together to send representatives to the training.

Anyway, I will be back in the UK next week and will send all my photos
then. I’d be happy to talk you through things too if you like – always
much more interesting that a dry email!"