Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has said his government has allocated over 57,000 hectares of land to smallholders and large-scale oil palm plantation investors in four local government areas of the state, under the Edo State Oil Palm Programmed (ESOPP).
Obaseki said this while delivering a keynote address at the National Initiative for Sustainable and Climate-Smart Oil Palm Smallholders (NI-SCOPS) Roundtable, held in Benin City, the Edo State capital.
The governor noted: “Edo State Government has allocated over 57,000 hectares of land under the ESOPP programmer in four local government areas, which are Orhionmwon, Ovia-North East, Owan-West and Uhunmwonde local government areas. This is the first phase, as we are still looking for more land in the Ovia axis and as soon as this is completed, we will commence the second phase of allocation.
“In the first phase, we allocated 25 per cent to smallholders, while large estate holders were allocated the balance 75 per cent of the total allocation.”
Obaseki continued: “Some of the allottees have taken possession of their land and concluding their community action programmer. We believe that by the time all the necessary things have been done, cultivation will commence before the end of the year.
“The contributions of smallholder farmers in the oil palm sector cannot be over emphasized, as smallholder farmer’s account for over 60 per cent of crude oil palm produced globally.”
The governor further stated: “Nigeria is currently Africa’s largest oil palm producers and the fifth in the World, with almost 2.5 million hectares of land under cultivation in Nigeria. However, we still import over N90 billion worth of oil palm produce yearly into this country.
“The low prices of crude oil, which we witnessed this year and the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted our economy significantly and has highlighted the importance and urgency for us to diversify our country’s economy, creating alternative sources of revenue.
“The Nigerian oil palm economy has the capability of earning over $20 billion for our country annually just for cultivation and production. This is why in Edo State, we have taken the bold step of increasing the production of oil palm by supporting investors through the provision of land and a peaceful, secured and business-friendly environment to boost their investment.
“To effectively and efficiently encourage investors, the state launched the Edo State Oil Palm Programmed, in partnership with other private sector stakeholders, including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).”
He said under the programmer, the CBN committed about N69 billion to support investors who invested in oil palm in Edo State, in line with the Federal Government’s determination to diversify the nation’s economy.
Obaseki added: “Edo State is a member of Tropical Forest Alliance and also African Palm Oil Initiative. The bodies bring together partners from 10 oil-producing countries. It is significant to note that Edo State government is the only sub-national government that is a member of these bodies.
“I encourage all stakeholders to collaborate in achieving a robust oil palm sector in Edo State despite the challenges of the smallholder oil palm farmers, which is also a global issue.”
Chris Okafor, representative of IDH, noted that “the IDH-Nigeria value proposition for NI-SCOPS is that by simultaneously addressing multiple factors that impede oil palm landscape development and growth through a multi-partner and stakeholder processes, a lasting transformation can be achieved in livelihood of smallholders in an environmentally-friendly and socially responsible manner.”