Mr. Godwin Obaseki, Governor of Edo State, at the weekend said that his administration was discussing with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to develop a programme that would see investors taking up 100,000 hectares of agricultural land in the state for plantation development.
Obaseki who disclosed this when he met with a delegation from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) led by IFC Vice President, Middle East and Africa, Mr. Segio Pimenta, on a courtesy visit to the Government House, Benin City, the Edo State capital.
The governor said that the state was keenly interested in increasing agricultural land under cultivation in the state to create wealth, fight deforestation and boost the economy, noting that the concerns of environmentalists are taken into consideration in increasing the hectarage under cultivation in the state.
He said, “Edo State has the largest oil palm estate in the country; that is even comparatively small when you relate it to what is happening in South-East Asia. Total agricultural land under cultivation is under 70,000 hectares which is less than one farm in Indonesia.”
“We want to make sure that what we produce can compete globally. As such, we decided to first deal with concerns of the environment by taking a forest audit and now we have been able to earmark close to 250,000 hectares of degraded forest land for agricultural purpose.
“We made a commitment last week to CBN to make 100,000 available to be properly screened by investors, as the CBN wants to develop a programme with us as a pilot.
“We want to get a commitment of getting or re-growing one hectare of forest from every four hectares cultivated in the state. This will help us to be competitive in the next few years in terms of our forestry assets.”
Pimenta, on his part, said the organisation has heard of all the good works the governor was doing to develop the state and its economy, which were geared towards making life better for the people of the state.
He said the organisation was supporting progressive states that are doing well in various areas, with education as one of the major areas of focus, noting, “Education is one area the state is getting our fundamental support. We look at human capacity index focusing on how we can help build human capacity in countries and states we operate in. This is responsible for the collaboration with Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (EDOBEST) programme and BRIDGE.