By Ikenna Nwokedi
History was made on Tuesday, 16th May 2023 as UNIZIK Farms Cooperative (UFC) Society officially opened her greenhouse to the University community and beyond while also performing her first harvest festival.
The setting of the farm which is targetted at promoting ecofriendly products in the farm, agro tourism and marketing of the products for the University brought about the convergence of the members of the University Management, Governing Council, staff and students to the historic event.
In his remarks, UNIZIK Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Charles Esimone, FAS stated that the situation at the Green House of UNIZIK Farms Multipurpose Co-operative Society is a testimony that there is hope in Nigeria. Prof. Esimone noted that Nigerians have always diverted their problems to the wrong section and this is the time everyone should bear in mind that we are the ones to transform the economy of our nation once the opportunity and necessary policy implementation is in place.
The University’s Chief Executive Officer commended the committee for going beyond groundbreaking and producing a finished product while also encouraging the institution’s members of staff and surrounding communities to utilize the opportunity and invest in the project.
In her address, the President of the UFC and currently the Special Adviser to the Vice-Chancellor (Legal), Prof. Carol Arinze-Umobi stated that the day’s event is to celebrate the First Harvest Festival of UNIZIK Farms Multipurpose Co-operative Society.
The visibly elated Prof. Arinze-Umobi disclosed that it has been a long struggle as the University had in mind about having a cooperative firm to serve the institution, the student and the community which led to the formation of the committee that have metamorphosed into a vibrant co-operative society making it a legal person with the legal entity which can sue, be sued and with the ability to acquire properties.
Prof. Arinze-Umobi said that hitherto the University approved 10 hectares of land for the UFC and they decided to go into production of pepper and tomatoes in a green house nature as a result of its numerous advantage. She further disclosed that now the products have started fruiting, there will be harvest twice in a week from each tent while also informing that the Cooperative Society have the intention of mounting three more tents as the already mounted tents were trial tents.
The former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration) of the institution said the three new tents will be utilized for full pepper production, mushroom, composting and abbatoir while also stating that there will be a proposed site for cultivation of potatoes rich in Vitamin A that are carrot like and can be used in baking of bread.
On his part, the Vice President, Prof. Ike Odimegwu emphasized that UFC make use of eco friendly products in the farm and that Agro tourism is one of the agenda being marketed. Prof. Odimegwu highlighted that the governing council as far back as 2018 initiated the process for the creation of this farm and in their decision, it was established as a workers’ co-operative farm and not a University administration farm.
He maintained that this is a great partnership and the University through the governing council decided to support the farm which will partner with the faculty of agriculture and other relevant faculties for research, practicals and field work but basically for the welfare of members. Prof. Odimegwu further mentioned that the farm is also another form of innovation that is open to students, staff of the University for partnership and people outside the University for investment.
Also reacting, the Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) UNIZIK Chapter, Comrade Stephen Ufoaroh commended the University staff for initiating the process which has the potentials to serve as an IGR for investors and the University as the institution will benefit from the percentage of the proceeds bearing in mind that they provided the land.
He also emphasized that the farm will serve as a practical training centre for students of the Faculty of Agriculture to be better equipped and well grounded in their chosen profession and course of study.
Highpoints of the occasion was the cutting of the tape, opening of the green house and harvesting of the first fruit by UNIZIK Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Esimone. The event also featured various speeches by UFC investors and sales by the management of the farm.