Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki has been commended for the opportunity given to IDH to collaborate with the state government in the Okomu Forest Landscape management in Edo State.

The Country Director, IDH, Professor Eniola Fabusoro, who gave this commendation at the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signing ceremony of the Okomu Forest Landscape Compact, also had some pleasant words for the traditional heads of impacted communities for their support and demonstration of commitment towards the protection of the Okomu Forest Landscape.

According to the IDH Country Director, the governor’s commitment to the sustainability of the forest landscape was a step in the right direction and such that would bring profit to people and the planet.

IDH is a foundation established by the Government of the Netherlands and we are operating in 40 countries of the world and working in 22 landscapes across the globe in Africa, Asia and Latin America, with three key objectives of productivity, protection and inclusion with focus on improving productivity in a dominant commodity within the landscape and use that as an entry point to convening relevant stakeholders within the landscape for inclusive and sustainable agriculture and forest protection.

Prof Fabusoro noted that IDH together with its partners in Edo State had demonstrated the effectiveness of collaboration and inclusive engagement through the initiation of the multi-stakeholder processes with the state government that have led to remarkable achievements in landscape governance, and indeed the palm oil sector in Edo State.

This coalition called Okomu Compact, according to him, seeks to bring more prosperity to Edo State, improve the livelihoods of the people in the Okomu Forest Landscape, and restore ecosystem diversity.

With the discussion ongoing at COP 28, I believe the Compact is an innovative and pragmatic approach by the state in positioning itself in leveraging relevant opportunities in the climate finance discussions at the global level.

Since the launch of the coalition by the State Governor on November 30, 2022, Prof Fabusoro said the implementation Committee inaugurated had been meeting to set up the Compact structure, which has culminated in the MoU signing.

IDH has committed resources to the landscape through cofunding with Okomu Oil Palm Company plc to improve the livelihoods of smallholder oil palm farmers and avoid deforestation. Working together with 2SCALE, about 7,000 metric tonnes of oil Palm Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFB) had been traded between Okomu company and smallholders, under best management practices and based on an agreed pricing model, which has led to an increase in income of the farmers and greaty reduced dependence on firewood within adjacent forests.

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He said diversification for income and biodiversity is also being promoted in the landscape with the introduction of beekeeping activities for about 500 members of the host communities.

“IDH also initiated a colaborative project with the Africa Nature Investors (ANI) Foundation to promote the commercialization of NonTimber Forest Products (NTFPs) among communities in the Okomu landscape. About 500 members of 12 host communities, mostly women and youth in the Okomu landscape, are targeted for this initiative.

Commercializing NTFPs will reduce encroachment into the forest and increase household incomes.

“An awareness campaign is ongoing to solicit community participation in conservation and livelihood initiatives that will emanate from this Compact. The campaign is reaching 6000 host community dwellers in the landscape,” he disclosed.

He said further that IDH was working actively with partners to improve livelihoods, while also engaging in discussions with the Edo State Forestry Commission and Okomu Oil Palm Company for restoration of planting in the Okomu Reserve.

“We believe that with the Compact, many more collaborations are possibe. Likewise, investments could be attracted to the Landscape and funds including Climate funds can be leveraged for further developmental projects.

“I am happy to announce that IDH has received approval to continue the NISCOPS programme in Edo State into its Phase 2, which will commence in January 2024 and run till December 2028, and will be funded by the Government of the Netherlands.

“In the Phase 2 programme, IDH will work closely with the Implementation Committee to strengthen its operational structure and leverage opportunities that will bring benefit to all stakeholders in the Okomu Landscape,” he said.

In attendance were stakeholders in the Okomu Forest Landscape including heads of relevan Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Edo State Government; traditional heads of concerned host communities; Directors of Agro Allied companies and Research Institutes in the landscape who took their time to sign their columns in the MoU under the supervision of officials from the State Ministry of Justice.