The Edo State Government said it has so far attracted no fewer than 13 investors into its agro-based subsector of the agricultural sector.
BusinessDay reports that the government said it was also promoting bee development, noting that about 100 persons have so far been trained.
Churchill Oboh, acting team lead of the Edo State Oil Palm Programme (ESOPP), and Bashiru Kadiri, retired permanent secretary in the state Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security disclosed this to BusinessDay in Benin City during a one-day stakeholders’ meeting organised by the African Sustainable Commodities Initiative (ASCI).
The ASCI programme funded by the British Government through Palladium Group under the Implementation of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) organised the programme for stakeholders consisting of government, private sector, CSOs, NGOs, and heads of different commodities in Edo State.
According to Oboh, 13 companies were already investing in the state under the ESOPP, and land ranging from 200 to 12,000 hectares have been allocated to them.
“Companies coming to Edo state should come through ESOPP, particularly those that have to do with oil palm.
“In the ESOPP initiative, there is a one-stop-shop that is holding the company from the very beginning of their journey to the end,” Oboh said.
He said lands have already been allocated to the companies, documents issued, some planting already, others at the nurseries and pre-nurseries stages, while some at the communities engagement stage.
Oboh expressed optimism that the companies when fully in operation, have the potential to contribute over 40 percent to the state’s Gross Domestic Product in the next seven years.
On his part, Kadiri disclosed that the state government is currently promoting bee development with about 100 persons so far trained.
Kadiri added that the number of beekeepers is being expanded in the Okomu landscape where about 500 persons will be trained.
Speaking at the meeting, Oboh who is also the facilitator of the ASCI in Nigeria, said the meeting was for stakeholders to deliberate on challenges within the production of agricultural commodities landscape and the need to produce the commodities sustainably.
He also added that the meeting afforded members the opportunity to understand that forests are assets to the country that must be conserved in order to get the derivable benefits inherent in them.
He noted that with the FPIC, investors have been able to get the cooperation of host communities who were hitherto not giving them the needed support.
Oboh, however, urged community leaders to refrain from signing any document whose context they do not understand.
He said the ESOPP has made it mandatory that any investor willing to invest in the state, agro-based, must come to its office.
He said the reason was to ensure that encumbrances mitigating against the acquisition of land, and commitment to host communities in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility are documented as Memorandum of Understanding.
“These companies and their experiences as narrated right now are way different from the experiences of those that came to the state without passing through the ESOPP initiative.
“In ESOPP, there is a one-stop-shop that is holding the company from the very beginning of their journey to the end.
“Investors engagement with the communities are now much easier than before, and that peace that will foster investment is created through the engagement of the government in the entire process.
“The solution is to ensure that communications with the host communities are in relatable terms. So, the communities should also engage in relatable terms and should understand what they are signing because that is the only way peace can be fostered within the various stakeholders,” Oboh said.
Participants at the meeting, including Saro, Okomu Oil, and Ta Commodity Producers Company, commended the state government for creating an enabling environment for investors and communities to co-exist peacefully.