By Nick Dugba
Taraba, which is mostly an Agricultural State and prides itself as the ‘Nature’s Gift to the Nation’ is about to experience a turnaround in agriculture, thereby boosting its economic standing in the committee of States in Nigeria.
The reason for this revolution is no other venture than the gigantic green house project situated within the premises of the Taraba state University and the State College of Agriculture in Jalingo.
The project was initiated by the Rescue Administration of Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku, with the initial capacity to produce four exotic crops- cucumber, lettuce, pepper and tomatoes.
It promises to be the first greenhouse in the entire north east sub region and the largest in the country. It sits on five hectares of land with an installed capacity to house fifteen greenhouses. Currently, eight of them have been completed while the remaining are still under construction.
The project was contracted to Onida Development Ltd, an Israeli company, which hopes to construct the project, train the needed personnel and handover the project to the owner- the Taraba state government, in the future.
Established in August 2015 by the Darius Ishaku government, the green house is worth N2 Billion and according to the State Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr David Ishaya Kassa, N900 Million has so far been sunk into the project which is about 65 to 70 per cent completed.
Does Taraba Need a Greenhouse?
A lot of politicking had characterized the establishment of a greenhouse in the state with some claiming it shouldn’t be a priority of government. But if we are to go by the business principle of need assessment, a greenhouse is indeed needed for several reasons.
One fact that can’t be debated is the fact that the state hardly produced vegetables which are basic dietary requirements for the people and a greenhouse can serve as not only a source for vegetables but create capacity for farmers who would like to engage in vegetable farming. Vegetables like cabbage, carrots, lettuce, cucumber and so on are mainly brought into the state from elsewhere and a greenhouse might fill that gap.
Secondly, it may serve as a source of employment for the youths and revenue generation for the state as the Commissioner rightly pointed out.
“Apart from supplying the vegetables of international quality, we intend to also take it to other cities. You know in this country, most of our vegetables are being imported. We want to replace those markets; instead of importing vegetables, let’s produce them in Taraba so that we can earn forex. Apart from that, if you go to the greenhouse, you will find out that over 200 of our youths are already employed. That is to say, part of the vision of this greenhouse is being fulfilled by tackling the issue of unemployment of our youths”.
Besides that, Kassa added saying “the location of the greenhouse is within the university and the College of Agriculture. Most a times, you will see our students going on excursion to see how crops are being produced. Now they have them at their backyard. Now they can come and see how these crops are being produced under very high and best agronomic practices. That’s why we say there will be technology transfer”.
Facts About the Greenhouse You May Not Know
Following the establishment of this development masterpiece, a lot of misconceptions, politics, rumours and ignorance have threatened the smooth running of the project.
Some people have speculated that the project is privately owned,while some workers at the site have complained of unfair treatment by authorities of the greenhouse. As a matter of fact, some of them who couldn’t cope with the condition of service of the organization contracted to run the project, have since looked elsewhere.
One of the newly employed workers who pleaded anonymity, complained of the N25,000 monthly pay as too meagre considering the labour involved in the greenhouse.
The mother of one and a HND graduate from the College of Agriculture, Jalingo, regretted the fact that there was no special consideration given to graduates as all workers irrespective of their educational status, are thrown into the greenhouse to do the same menial work. As a result of this circumstances, several workers had quited earlier than expected.
The Site Manager of the project, James Uchenna, however praised the governor for his commitment towards seeing that the project succeeded. He disclosed that the issues of water and electricity had been taken care of by the governor.
“He has delivered on the issue of water and power. On the issue of security, nobody has ever in any guise harassed us. So I must commend him for that. Then also the workers; most of them came here very raw but they were exposed and I can tell you now, we have three greenhouses and they are working there”, he revealed.
The Commissioner for Agriculture, David Ishaya Kassa, on his part debunked claims of Ill- treatment meted on workers, stressing that the reason workers are having issues is because the government is not yet in full control of the project. He however gave the assurance that the future will be bright.
“You know the greenhouse is not yet owned by the State. It is still under construction. It is the contractor that has the right to decide who would work for them. But by the time they have completed the work, that is when we would retain some of these graduates and they would do their professional work.
“But as it is now, you have to go by what the contractor would say. Most of them are on casual basis because they are still constructing the greenhouses. By the time it is handed over to us, any person working there would be under the terms and conditions of the Taraba State Government”, the Commissioner assured.
He attributed the claims and speculations to ignorance. “May be the people did not understand it very well. As it is now, they are under the contractor’s’ payroll, later on we would receive them and all the condition of service of Taraba State Government would apply to them”.