BENIN CITY – On the back of far-reaching reforms by the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration, the Edo State Government is reviving the Urhonigbe oil palm belt with N91.3bn provided by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and private investors, for the cultivation of oil palm on 51.8 hectares in Urhonigbe, Orhionmwon Local Government Area of the state under the first phase of the Edo State Oil Palm Programme (ESOPP).
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security Programme, Prince Joe Okojie said this at a one-day sensitisation seminar for oil palm farmers in the state.
He noted that the total investment for the first phase of the programme is N91.3bn with the CBN providing N68.8 billion while farmers would contribute N22.5bn.
Okojie said the state government is currently in talks with Partnerships for Forests (P4F) to support the financing for farmers, adding that the implementation committee for the programme will be set up in a week’s time to kick start land allocation to investors.
The governor’s aide said 120,000 hectares of land has been acquired for the programme in Orhionmwon, Uhunmwonde, Ovia North East and Ovia South West Local Government Areas of the state, noting that farmers will be paired with investors in a ratio of 30 percent small and medium scale farmers to 70 percent oil palm investors.
“It will be a cluster type of farming. Investors will get between 5,000 to 10,000 hectares each. The investors will get 70 percent of the land and allocate 30 percent to small and Medium scale farmers. The investors must include Corporate Social Responsibility for the host community in their production plan before they will participate in the programme,” he added.
The Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Hon. Richard Edebiri, said the ESOPP was geared towards revamping the oil palm industry in the state, noting that the programme comprises capacity building, collaboration in the area of research, processing, among others.
In his remarks, the Director of Research and Head of Extension Services, NIFOR, Dr Solomon Olusegun, commended the Edo State Government for taking the bold step in reviving its oil palm sector, noting that the big players in the industry in the state guarantee the success of the programme. He added: “It is a laudable thing for the state government to revive its oil palm sector. It will help take over our deforested land and create wealth for small scale farmers.”
One of the Oil Palm farmers at the seminar, Apostle Steve Oronsaye, expressed appreciation to the state government for giving special interest to oil palm production, adding that farmers consider the initiative as a step in the right direction.
He said existing oil palm farmers should be selected to participate in the programme.