By Francis Onyeukwu
Ngor Okpala (Imo) – The British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation (BATNF) is to fund the planting of oil palm plantation for 300 selected farmers in Imo.
The beneficiaries, expected to be drawn from each co-operative society in Onuimo, Orsu and Ngor Okpala local government areas, would provide half hectre of land and labour for the project.
Mr Fatai Afolabi, a member of the Technical Committee, BATNF, who launched the initiative at Logara Onyeghalanwanneya community on Friday, announced that the project would last for one year.
According to Afolabi, the project, tagged “Good Practice on Oil Palm,” is to improve the living standard of farmers, adding that the project will be executed under a tripartite initiative.
He said “BATNF will supply the nursed seedlings and other inputs, while the Imo Agricultural Development Progamme will provide technical support, and the farmer will provide the land and labour.”
He explained that the benefitting local governments would present 100 farmers each who would in turn provide half hectre of land (5,000 metres)
for the planting of the oil palm.
Afolabi noted that BATNF, established in 2002 as a charity outfit, was aimed at reducing poverty among rural dwellers.
He added that “in 2013, the focus of BATNF was narrowed to only sustainable agriculture development projects with emphasis on supporting rural smallholder farmers by migrating them from subsistence to commercial farming.”
He told the participants that BATNF had already directed its manager of projects to monitor the implementation of the oil palm planting, adding that the official would be in Imo for the execution.
Pastor Jonathan Anayochi, the Executive Director, Agricultural Development Programme (ADP), Imo State, assured the benefitting farmers and
BATNF of the readiness of the agency to provide the needed technical support to ensure the success of the programme.
Mr Peter Ogwuru, the President General of Logara Community Development Union, in an address of welcome, thanked BATNF and Imo ADP for selecting Ngor Okpala, Orsu and Onuimo for the programme.
In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the traditional ruler of Logara Community, HRH Eze Felix Njoku, said he was impressed that BATNF was leading the campaign to return Nigeria to the era of agriculture-based economy.
He said that “before the discovery of oil, the Igbo people of the South-Eastern Nigeria were popular for oil palm plantation, the north had groundnut and the west was known for cocoa, we will like to return to that era so that hunger will be a thing of the past.”
The event was attended by more than 250 participants, with the General Manager of BATNF, Ms Abimbola Okoya, and Tajudeen Akinwande, the Project Manager of BATNF, as well as local women dance troupe from Logara Women Organisation.
(Edited by Hadiza Mohammed-Aliyu)