Farmers in Ore, Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State in Nigeria protested against the alleged takeover and destruction of their farms by a private company on Wednesday. The farmers claimed that the state government sold their cocoa plantations to the company without any prior negotiation or notification.
They accused the company of storming their farms with earthmoving equipment and uprooting their cocoa trees, kola nut, and palm trees without regard for their livelihoods. Many of the destroyed farms were filled with seedlings.
The farmers carried placards that expressed their grievances, such as ‘Our land is weeping because the land keepers are being displaced,’ ‘Where do we farm if our land is taken away?’ and ‘Respect the farmers because we give life.’
Mr. Adetoro Opeyemi, one of the protesters, said all farmers from seven villages affected by the takeover paid annual levies to the state government. He claimed that the state government displaced them because the company that bought their plantations from the government began to clear the farms.
The Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Agriculture and Agribusiness, Mr. Akin Olotu, responded by saying that the forest belonged to the state government and that it had not been transferred to any farmer. He explained that the forest was being cleared to plant oil palm as demanded by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Olotu assured the farmers that those who were affected by the clearing would be supported with new cocoa seedlings and that there were provisions to take care of them.
He stated that those who were not affected this year would start planting in the new area, and the government would give them seedlings when it was planting season. Olotu emphasized that the government intended to promote standard farming practices, and farmers could now get what they used to get from five hectares of land from just one hectare with proper management.