Billy Ghanasah, the agriculture coordinator, Okomu Oil Palm Plc, has said that the company is collaborating with the Edo State government and Terra Agric Nigeria to cultivate oil palm on 5000 hectares of land over a period of six years.
Ghanasah said this at the Okomu smallholder farm development project organised in collaboration with the Edo State Investment Promotion Office (ESIPO) and Terra Agriculture, in Benin City, Edo State.
The coordinator said the project would promote complete value chain development of oil palm business in the state for existing and prospective oil palm farmers, adding that the project would be spread across four local government areas reputed for oil palm production in the state.
According to him, Okomu Plc will provide the inputs, technical support and offtake the produce from the farmers, noting, “We are looking at Ovia South West, Ovia North East, Uhunmwode and Esan West local government areas for locations of the hectares and we are expanding our oil mill by 50 per cent in view of this project.”
Kadiri Bashiru,, a former permanent secretary, Edo State Ministry of Agriculture, commended partners on the project, urging the organisers to have regular training for the youths, who will partake in the initiative.
He said the state government is empowering Edo people to drive the economy through its agri-preneur programme, which links farmers to off-takers and ensures that farmers make good returns from their business.
Jasper Izzi, the chairman, Terra Agric Nigeria, said the Ambrose Alli University (AAU) would be providing 1000 hectares of land for the oil palm project in Ekpoma under a graduate management scheme.
Izzi said AAU is also collaborating in the training of farmers and development of arable crops and animal husbandry in the proposed land, adding, “We want to have one graduate to four hectares of land. This means 250 graduates will manage 1000 hectares of land with the support of over 9,000 unskilled labourers.
“Once Okomu starts preparing the oil palm seedlings which will take about a year, we will use the land for arable crop production and animal husbandry,” he added.
The head, Edo State Investment Promotion Office, ESIPO, Kelvin Uwaibi, said the state government is partnering with the stakeholders to boost job creation and educate farmers on modern agricultural techniques to adopt.
Uwaibi added that the state government would be providing the enabling environment for the investment, noting, “We are supporting this to ensure investments that come into the state have the needed environment to thrive and to ensure that we are the final destination for investors.