Taraba’s New Initiative for Food Sufficiency

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Jonathan Eze writes that Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State is revolutionising agriculture in the state with the recent launch of the greenhouse farm by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo

There is no gainsaying the fact that the greenhouse technology is the way of the future in agriculture. It enables farmers to condition their crop, use less water, less labour, get higher yields and be able to guide against pest infestation
According to Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba, agriculture is the most viable option for economic diversification aimed at reducing teeming unemployment and guaranteeing food sufficiency.

The Greenhouse farm is a multi-billion naira project established by Taraba State government for the cultivation of vegetables for the state and the country at large.

At the commissioning, Osinbajo said the federal government will partner Taraba to improve agriculture in order to attain food sufficiency in the country.

The Vice President maintained that Agriculture is the only surest means to engaging the youth productively and free the country from the present recession, saying that the country will soon be on the part of greatness if Agricultural activities are enhanced across the country.

He noted that with what he has seen on ground, the federal government will support Taraba State Government considering the drive and dynamism employed and stressed that this is what the country needs at the moment.

“One of the thing that emerges, is that, Nigeria has all the talents, all the kind of resourcefulness, hard-working people, determined people that can make our country easily the greatest in Africa and certainly one of the best in the world.

“I think that what we have seen in Taraba, and the young people working here, it can only tell us one thing that we haven’t started yet, we haven’t even begun yet, when the world sees us, technology wise, no one will believe that it is the same Nigeria. This country is surely on the path to greatness and I am completely convinced that we will thread that path.

“We have been working with several state Governments, especially in the area of Agriculture, because we believe very strongly that Agriculture is the way out of the recession and it is also the pivot for our economic recovery and growth plan.
We believe that Agriculture is what will provide the majority of jobs and agro processing which will also provide excellent opportunities,” he said.

Accordingly, Osinbajo said he was impressed with the Greenhouse project and stressed that this is a typical example of the opportunities that Agriculture can provide and that the present administration is poised to build roads to link one Agricultural hotbed to the other.

Osinbajo remarked that Federal Government is committed to partnering with state Governments that are serious and hardworking and said he is confident Taraba can produce all that the nation needs in term of food and other Agricultural needs.

He further commended Ishaku for the giant strides recorded in the state and attributed it to his ingenuity and resourcefulness and added that the Greenhouse is a victory of technology particularly in the production of high quality vegetables all year round and at the moment the vegetables are being consumed in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kaduna states.
Responding, Ishaku told the Vice President that Taraba State has comparative advantage in Agriculture, particularly in rice farming, saying that rice is being farmed twice a year in the state.

He added that if given the desired support from the Federal Government, Taraba can confidently feed the whole of Nigeria with rice and therefore will save Nigeria about 8 billion dollars that is being regularly spent on the importation of foreign rice every year.

The governor informed the Vice President that Taraba is blessed with all climatic conditions which makes it favourable to cultivate all kinds of crops, explaining that, the Highland is suitable for the cultivation of Tea, Coffee and cocoa, in the middle we have groundnuts, rice, cotton, sorghum and in the lowlands we have palm oil and the famous rosewood which is popularly called mandril wood among others.

He noted with pride that Agriculture is the backbone of Taraba State and every possible avenue is being explored to support the local farmers with farm inputs and implements and the distribution of over 5 million improved cassava stems.

The governor said Taraba is the nature’s gift to the nation has huge potentials in tourism, particularly, Gashaka which has the largest natural park in West Africa, the kashimbilla Dam and many others.

Other projects included the Jalingo Primary water scheme which is expected to gulp over N6 billion, restored water in Wukari, Ibi, Zing and have so far sunk over one hundred and fifty boreholes across town and villages in the state and appreciated JAICA for assisting Taraba State government with drilling rig.

He pleaded with the Vice President to assist the state by reimbursing the over 30 billion Naira used in the construction of federal roads in the state and appealed to the Federal Government to allow the state to take possession of the silo in state so that it would be used by TAPMA to store grains that would be bought from farmers.

In his contribution, the Taraba State Deputy Governor, Engr. Haruna Manu, solicited for support from the Federal Government so that the current Agricultural revolution ongoing in the state will be enhanced.

Manu impressed on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency put the Kashimbila Dam to use and to also commence work at the Mambila Hydro Power Dam in Gembu so that the current perennial power supply in the country will be a thing of the past.

Earlier in his speech, the state Commissioner for Agriculture, David Ishaya Kassa said Taraba is a unique state in the country flowing with milk and honey and coupled with its unequaled beauty and lots of potential in Agriculture.
Kassa said since the Governor took over the mantle of leadership in the state, a road map has been designed which covers outgrowers scheme, provision of improved seedlings, particularly, the rice value chain, the establishment of cocoa grading center in Takum, negotiation with Dangote group of companies has been completed to begin sugarcane farming and the prompt payment of counterpart funds among other.

On the other hand, the Israeli contractor handling the project commended the resilience of Governor Ishaku for working relentlessly to ensure that the project comes to reality and expressed optimism that the Greenhouse project will launch Taraba State to limelight.

The contractor assured that they will continue to give the state desired technical expertise, saying that engaging in Agriculture is the most vibrant and fastest means of development and self-reliance and stressed that it is the only potential that has the capability to accommodate large chunk of people and added that with Agriculture nothing is impossible.

Meanwhile, an expert in Agro business highlighted the importance of the project to the State economy and what Nigeria stand to gain from the project.

Site Manager, ONIDA Agro company, Chief James Uchenna said the project is capable of generating millions of dollars for the State.

“Take for instance, cucumber takes 45 days from the day of planting in the nursery to the harvesting, and we have 18 Green Houses with dimension of 98×48; meaning two of them make one hectare.

“So if you are selling one cucumber for N100, multiply it by the number of stems in each of the green houses, that’s lot of money and we are going to have green pepper, punk leaves, tomatoes and other vegetables all grown here and in every 45 days, we are harvesting and selling, that’s a whole lot of money.

“This is going to be an all year round farming which will check importation of tomatoes and other vegetables. At the moment, Nigeria import even tomatoes from South Africa and China to meet local demand and this project will fill that gap.
“Already we have a cold room here and soon our Cooling Vans will arrive which will be used to distribute fresh vegetables across the Country,” he explained.

The site manager who said the project was first of its kind in Nigeria, said so far about 200 indigenes of the State are working and earning a living from the project, noting that apart from selling fresh vegetables, the project will serve as a factory where improved seedlings will be processed and sold to farmers.

It has also being noted that Taraba Agro Green House Project is capable of generating $50 million dollars annually and called on other States in the Country to emulate Taraba by constructing similar economic viable projects in their States to create jobs and reduce poverty.

“Apart from the huge economic importance of the Taraba Green House Project, it will also serve as a training centre for students studying Agriculture related courses in higher institutions across the Country.

“Other States in Nigeria should take advantage of this modern technology to improve their revenue. Look at Israel, though located in the desert, they have taken advantage of this technology and they are earning foreign exchange from it,” he said.