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Obaseki: Edo investing in oil palm to promote economic diversification, support forest regeneration

The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has said the government’s sustained investment in oil palm cultivation and production will enhance the diversification of the state’s economy from crude oil and support ongoing efforts to engender forest regeneration.

Obaseki, speaking during the inspection of an oil palm nursery bed project at Evboesi community in Orhionmwon Local Government Area, said his government plans to make agriculture the state’s new oil, leveraging its huge potential to boost the state’s economy, tackle food insecurity and create wealth for citizens.

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The governor, who noted that oil palm will be the backbone of future economies, said the state is sustaining reforms and programmes to support the influx of investors into the agriculture sector.

He disclosed that Edo is a signatory to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a global body with the objective of promoting the growth and use of sustainable palm oil products through global standards and multistakeholder governance.

Obaseki said, “This is a long-term investment. This land was a thick forest some 60 years ago but it has been badly degraded due to the illegal felling of trees. It's almost impossible to grow that kind of forest.

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“Instead of leaving the land fallow, we decided to get serious investors that understand the business of oil palm to invest in this area and grow oil palm in place of the forest.”

“We did several trips to Indonesia about five years ago to understand how they cultivate their oil palm and attract investment into the oil palm sector. We learnt to get the state to support the exercise in a much organised manner. This led to the creation of the Edo State Oil Palm programme (ESOPP), which is a programme where we partner with the private sector,” he added.

The governor said the state embarked on a forest audit and found out that Iyeko-Orhionmwon had about 60,000 hectares of land that was badly degraded for possible cultivation.

He said his administration approached the communities in the area for possible compensation and usage, adding, “The communities have been very cooperative, as the result is now for us all to see.”

Obaseki further noted, "We have charged the investors to help us grow back one hectare of forest from every four hectares given. We are using oil palm to regenerate our forest and we are glad to see what SaroAfrica has done.

“This is a longer period of gestation. In another 40 months, they will have been yielding and it will yield for another 30 years.”

“Palm oil will be the backbone of the future of Edo’s Economy and that of Nigeria. Palm oil is more expensive than crude oil and more versatile. We are laying the basis for the future of a great Edo. We promise to make Edo great again, and will do everything to ensure greatness, no matter the fight,” the governor reassured.

On his part, the Managing Director of Saro Oil Palm, Dr. Tunde Faturoti said, “We started this project about two months ago. Each bed should be able to take 4,000 seedlings. By 2026, we should be harvesting and should be able to harvest 25 tonnes per annum.”