A Kilifi County farmer is minting neem oil which is increasingly being used to control Coast region’s dreaded disease, elephantiasis, by repelling vector mosquitoes.
Alex Mwangemi makes more than Sh30,000 from one tree after selling one litre of the neem oil at Sh2,000.
Mwangemi harvests seeds twice per year from the neem tree.
“The giant Neem trees require no attention to bear the seeds. One mature tree gives 30kg to 40kg of fresh seeds. One litre of the oil is extracted from four fresh kilos of the seeds,” he said.
Harvesting 30kg for two rounds yields gives 60kg of fresh seeds. The 60kg in turn yield 15 litres of the oil.
Mosquitoes are common at the Coast region because of the warm climate.
Application on the oil on the skin just like ordinary petroleum jelly repels mosquitoes, which a spread, elephantiasis, malaria, dengue fever, among other diseases.
The oil is helping control elephantiasis because mosquitoes that spread the disease cannot land on a surface having the substance.
Azadirachtin is the active ingredient that gives the neem tree the healing and the repelling properties, according to the US National Pesticide Information Centre.
Mosquitoes attack in the evening, when most people, especially men are enjoying ‘madafu’, the alcoholic extract from green coconut fruits. That is why the people believe the disease is caused by madafu.
The Kwale, Mombasa, Kilifi, Tana River and Lamu counties residents little know that while they enjoy madafu in the evening under coconut trees, the mosquitoes bite and spread the disease among them.
The disease later spread to women, who were not in the drinking spree after the mosquito bites. The pool of elephantiasis causing germs- filarial worms- moves to the man who was drinking, then to the family.
The Marikebuni Village farmer also makes cooking briquettes out of the seed husks. Burning briquettes too emit the repellent, therefore, keeping off mosquitoes.
Elephantiasis causes enlarging of body parts served by the lymphatic system. In men, testis are can be enlarged to attain more than five kilos. Lower limps of both men and women balloon to appear as those of an elephant, hence the name elephantiasis.
Mwangemi says the belief that the diseases is caused by madafu is yet to be demystified for the people to accept new remedies.
Mwangemi can be reached on +254724706579.