As part of the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) principles and criteria, it is imperative for all stakeholders involved in oil palm cultivation to have mutual understanding and for investors to seek consent of project communities prior to the development of oil palm investments. It is against this backdrop that the Edo State Oil Palm Programme (ESOPP) Independent Implementation Office, as part of its continuous community engagements, paid visits to Sokponba/Aideyanba, Ona, Iguemokua, Evbuwa, ObazogbeN’ugu, Iguelaba and Oben communities in Orhionmwon Local Government Area in Edo State.
The meeting was called to ensure that project communities are carried along in the affairs of ESOPP. In attendance were the Special Adviser (SA) to Governor Godwin Obaseki on Political Affairs (Edo South) Lady Uwa Osunbor; the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Peter Aikhuomobhogbe represented by Mr Osazuwa; representatives of some ESOPP investors; and members of the ESOPP Independent Implementation Office in attendance.
Speaking at the meeting, Lady Uwa noted that the Edo State Government is using oil palm investment to bring development to local communities in the State. She said that the ESOPP investors are tasked to execute developmental projects annually in the various communities such as construction of roads, portable water supply, provision of power supply and more in their host communities.
She explained that project communities will provide the labour force for investors as oil palm investment will provide adequate job opportunities for the people. She however pleaded with the people to leverage on the opportunity as a means to secure proper education for members of the communities through scholarship schemes, adding that insecurity and atrocities committed by kidnappers will be a thing of the past as oil palm investment will drive away armed criminal elements from the local communities.
“Through these investments the safety of the people in our local communities will be guaranteed as the investors will develop the various community areas making it difficult for criminals, kidnappers and armed bandits to settle in such areas.”
The various community leaders present thanked the Edo State Government and ESOPP investors for their visit and continuous engagements, stressing that this shows transparency and accountability on Government’s part. They pleaded with the State Government to provide buffer zones to enable farmers to continue farming.
Responding to questions, the Data Management Officer of ESOPP Independent Implementation Office, Mr. Emmanuel Omondeagbon, said that the Edo State Government will work with the investors to create buffer zones for the various communities in order to support and encourage continuous farming.
“ESOPP Community engagements are carried out in order to ensure that communities are part of the process from start to execution of the entire Edo State Oil Palm Programme including the preliminary studies, survey exercises, High Conservation Value (HCV) and High Carbon Stock (HCS) assessments and many more. We want to ensure communities do not feel threatened by the presence of Investors” he said.
Mr. Omondeagbon appreciated the people for their cooperation in the various processes, informing them that the Participatory Boundary Establishment (PBE) exercise will be carried out with all project communities because the Edo State Government is committed to building positive relationships between the local communities and the investors which will in turn encourage development across the State.
ESOPP has so far allocated over 65, 000 hectares of land to 9 high-level investors including Presco, Dufil, Saro Africa, amounting to $520, 000, 000.
Source: Edo State Government