•Revives comatose rubber plantations, spruces up communities


From Okey Sampson, Umuahia


When in 2017 and later 2021 Great Nobles, an integrated agro firm, acquired through contract leasing from Abia State Government the Abia Rubber Company’s plantations located in Ndi-Oji and Amaeke Abam, all in Arochukwu Local Government Area of the state, the two estates could at best pass for the Amazon in South America and the Boreal Forest of Canada.

Outside this frightening and jungle-like state of the plantations, operational equipment was dead and non-existent. This was even as buildings in the plantations were dilapidated.


It was in this dreadful and debilitating state the two estates found themselves before Great Nobles Integrated Limited, a pathfinder in the agro business world, made inroads into these almost abandoned rubber plantations.

Since then, it has been one great achievement or the other from Great Nobles, giving back in turn in quantum measure to society what it has received.

To start with, according to the director of the firm, Celestine Kanu, despite the fact that Great Nobles had a year’s setback in commencement of operations as a result of a few untied knots between the state government on one hand and the host communities on the other hand, they were able to prove to the land donor communities that they came not only to improve the capacity of the rubber estates but equally to better the lot of the people.

Since no one would engage in business, particularly the type, at hand in an environment not conducive for its workforce and equally without an enabling environment for operational pursuits, the firm embarked on huge deforestation of the sites that took it several months at enormous costs.

Kanu said: “Talking about value so far added to Abia Rubber Company plantations sited in Ndi-Oji and Amaeke in Arochukwu Local Government Area of Abia State, acquired through contract leasing from Abia State Government by Great Nobles Integrated Limited in 2017 and 2021, respectively, the company has made a lot of input to not only better the plantations but also the lot of the host communities.

“The leasing for that of Ndi-Oji was in 2017, but the plantation was not assessed untill 2018 due to setback as a result of misunderstanding between the workers, community and government. However, the impasse was resolved by April 2018 and the first thing we did was to do deforestation of the whole of the planation, which took us several months to complete and at huge costs. The aim was to make the place accessable and make it conducive for operations.”

After the deforestation and giving the estate semblance of a rubber planation, having entered the site proper, Great Nobles found out there were no tapping utensils: the primary tools in the rubber planation harvesting business. The firm went all out and invested heavily in procuring thousands of tapping utensils, thereby enhancing the operational capabilities of the workers.

Kanu put this in capsule form: “There was complete absence of tapping utensils in the two plantations. Great Nobles, therefore, invested heavily in procuring utensils for tapping inspite of yearly fire outbreaks in the plantations.”

To ensure regeneration and constant availability of budded stumps, the manager said, upon assessing the plantations, Great Nobles kicked off the planting programme of improved rubber clones. This, he said, resulted in the planting of 47. 5 hectres of land.

“In Amaeke, which was acquired in 2021, due to non-availability of budded stumps, last year, however, about 10 hectares were planted awaiting budding,” he added.

Related News

Checks by this reporter revealed that this was the highest value added to the plantation since its establishment in the 1960s by the Michael Okpara administration.

In the whole of Abam and Amaeke in particular, electricity from the national grid has remained a luxury over the years, as it seldom comes. Therefore, to be self-sufficient in power supply, Great Nobles installed solar panels to ensure lighting on the office premises of the two estates not only to make workers perform optimally but also to ensure security in the two plantations.

Having suffered lack of accommodation for staff of the two estates over a long period, with their takeover by Great Nobles, there appeared to be light at the end of the tunnel in this direction as the firm has commenced the erection of a befitting office accommodation for the staff. Work has reached an advanced level.

Kanu shed more light on this: “Presently, we have a 20-room labour line under construction. Work on this project has already reached an advanced stage. When completed, the accommodation problem of the workers will be over.”

Means of evacuation of lumps is always paramount in the rubber tapping business. Abia Rubber inherited a moribund tractor from the old Imo State government, which remained in that state of decapitation. However, recently, Great Nobles refurbished the tractor and put it back in use. This has made evacuation of tapped rubber lumps much easier.

Kanu, like the lizard that fell from the Iroko tree and praised itself, patted his firm on the back for refurbishing the tractor: “A moribund tractor abandoned  at Ndi-Oji during the Imo State Agricultural Development Corporation has been repaired and put to use. Prior to our coming, no other firm did this.

“There is no private investor that added value to the plantations as Great Nobles has done within this number of years and we are still counting.”

Great Nobles’ giant strides do not start and end within the precincts of the two estates. As a company neck-deep in discharging its corporate social responsibility, Kanu said the company, in 2021 and 2022, graded some rural roads in Amaeke and Ndi-Oji to ease transportation problems in the two communities. And this year would not in any way be different, Kanu said.

What’s more, during the signing of the lease agreement with the state government, the firm was mandated to be allocating 70 metric tonnes of rubber lumps annually to the two communities. This agreement Great Nobles has religiously kept to the letter to the delight of the people, Kanu said.

He summed it up this way: “Great Nobles has been meeting up with its corporate social responsibility as agreed with the two communities by allocating 70 metric tonnes of rubber lump yearly. In 2021 and 2022, we helped Ndi-Oji and Amaeke communities in grading some of their roads.”

Indigenes of the two communities are  excited with what the firm is doing in their area. They commended the state government for its wisdom in leasing out the two plantations to their present operator, which they affirm has not only yielded returns on investment, but has indirectly made them co-owners of the planations.

Okereke Agwu, from Ndi-Oji, said: “The best thing that has happened to the planation and our community in the recent past is leasing the estate to its present operator.

“Our people have really benefitted from the activities of the company since it started operation in the area”.

He cited some of the accruals from the company to the community to include employment of their youths, grading of their roads and keeping the plantation itself in good stead, among others.

Mrs. Ola Nma, who is one of those earning a living by working at the planation in Ndi-Oji, disclosed how she has been able to take care of her family while being engaged by Great Nobles.

“I wouldn’t know what would have been my fate and that of my family if I was not engaged by the company,” she said.

Kalu Agwu, who is from Amaeke, commended Great Nobles for being proactive in their dealings with the community, which he said has engendered peace and harmony.

The company, he said, remains the best to have managed the estate and commended the management led by Kanu for not reneging on the agreement it reached with the community and urged them to do more for the people.