By Jimoh Babatunde
Ekiti State government has concluded plans to establish an integrated bio-gas powered Cassava processing facility in Arugba, a town in Omuo_Ekiti in collaboration with a private company, Arog Bio Allied Agro Services.
The project which is to encourage large scale production of food and boost economic activities at the grassroots is also to create employment opportunity for thousands of jobless Nigerians, especially able_bodied youths and women.
The co_ordinator of the project and the Chief Executive Officer of the Arog Bio Allied Agro Services Ltd, Dr. Temitope Aroge, said the multi_million naira project that will soon debut in Omuo_Ekiti, Ekiti State, can be described as a â€œproject of necessityâ€ and necessary arrangement for the commencement of the project has reached an advanced stage.
Speaking further, Dr. Aroge, a medical doctor, who is also a prominent member of both Cassava Growers Association of Nigeria and All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), saidÂ that the fully integrated bio_gas powered cassava processing plant will be sited on a 7.04 acres of land in Omuo Ekiti which has been approved by the traditional council of the town and the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) signed by Governor Oni.
The reason for choosing this town was not far from the fact that the site is not only ideal for the project, but also its proximity to water supply, relatively good road network and availability of raw materials at the 250km radius to the processing site covering Okun land, Igala and Ebira land, Ondo, Akoko and Owo town. So, Kwara and Akoko Edo in Edo State.
The state of the art cassava processing machines to be installed will be processing cassava tubers into various cassava by_products into native starch which will be categorised into food, pharmaceutical and industrial grade; modified starch (Monosodium glutamate, citric acid, and glucose syrup, flour; chips_pellets as well as gaarve and other consumable products.
The gaarve to be produced on a large scale is to serve as a buffer to any effect of the project on food security, while the waste water is to be used to produce bio gas for electricity generation for the facility.â€œSo you can see that the entire process will be based on a cycle network and nothing is to be wasted as every processing stage of the plant is to complement each other,â€ Dr. Aroge emphasised.
Asked to comment on the reaction of cassava farmers in the country to the proposed project, the benefit the farmers stand to gain from it, the value the project is going to add to the socio-economic development of both Ekiti State and the country at large, as well as the effects of the initiative on the food security programme of the country, Dr. ArogeÂ stated: â€œthe facility when fully operational would employ about one thousand graduates within the first year of production in the areas of food processing, biochemistry, microbiology, agriculture extension services, agriculture engineering and biotechnology, marketing and accounting.
Dr. ArogeÂ explained that the company is at present working with 20,000 cassava farmers especially now that we are in the dry season for modified out_grower service scheme called the Grower Services Programme (GSP) for the year 2009/2010 planting season.
â€œThere will be foreign exchange earning as part of the products will be exported to Europe. The project also has a self_regulating mechanism to encourage mechanised farming as farmers will be assisted with inputs, hybrid cassava stems and empowered with strategies to avoid middlemen who are responsible for high food prices in the country.
â€œEkiti government has been showing support for the project ever since we had discussion with Gov. Segun Oni on the benefit of the project to the state and the country at large. In fact, the governor has done a lot to ensure that the project attracts both national and international support.â€
Dr. Arogeâ€™s assertion was also corroborated by the Chief Press Secretary to the Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Wale Ojo_Lanre, who saidÂ that the project will prevent the problem of cassava processing, especially cassava glut, encourage investors as well as stimulate economic activities in the rural areas.