In Liberia, the LAC (Liberian Agricultural Company) plantation is today a model example of a post-conflict sustainable development project, despite the economic turmoil and political events that the country has experienced. In this respect, some historical background…
The LAC concession was created by the government in 1959 and later purchased by Uniroyal. Already in 1961, the company started to develop a 7 000 hectare rubber plantation there.
During the 1980s, rubber prices were low and social and administrative investments were insufficient. The civil wars of the 1990s and early 2000s marked the destruction of the rubber industry. These wars also led to a loss of technical know-how in the field of rubber cultivation, affecting many Liberians (50% of the population worked in agriculture before the civil wars).
At the request of the donors (the World Bank and the French Development Agency), Socfin invests in the rehabilitation of the LAC plantation in 1998. Both LAC’s production unit and plantations were by then in a dilapidated state.
Huge efforts were made to revive the plantation. Priority was given to social infrastructure: homes, schools and hospitals. Then the factory was rebuilt and new administrative buildings were erected. The blocks that had been destroyed during the war were replanted and extensions were planted until 2007. Since then, replanting of ageing blocks has initiated in order to rejuvenate the plantation and increase production without any environmental impact.
LAC’s production unit has been ISO 9001 certified since 2009.
At present, rubber is Liberia’s main export crop, and LAC is the country’s second largest producer, with a volume of over 28 000 tons per year.
Taking into account Liberia’s permanent instability, only few foreign investors take the leap and invest in the country. Furthermore, since the revival of agricultural activity, the plantation is one of the country’s the major economic players.
Aware of its contribution to regional development, the LAC plantation links its future to the surrounding communities’ sustainable development.
To this end, the creation of a local economic fabric is essential. A community assistance and development program has therefore been implemented on the plantation: development of smallholdings, purchasing of rubber, technical support and maintenance of roads that are crucial for regional economic activity, etc.
Today, more than 30 000 people depend on the Liberian Agricultural Company’s activities, both directly and indirectly. They experienced an improvement of their living conditions in various ways, whether it concerns job opportunities or regular income received by more than 2 100 people.
Convinced that regional development starts with education of the youth, LAC has constructed educational infrastructure: schools, libraries, science laboratory, computer lab, school buses, recreational areas, etc.
Today, the plantation’s surrounding population can benefit from modern medical infrastructure and equipment: health centers, a hospital, an outpatient clinic and ambulances. It also has qualified medical staff. And, to reach out to the most isolated communities, LAC set up a mobile clinic that visits the most remote villages at set times and dates.
Finally, to improve team dynamics, a local radio station was created: “LAC SA Radio”. Broadcast within a 60 km radius around the plantation, the station offers entertainment, amusement, interactive programs, news etc. It is an adapted communication and information channel playing a key role in this remote area.
Given the absence of an electricity network in the region, the problem of energy – and hence the environment – is an integral part of the plantation’s daily concerns.
Two initiatives have therefore been launched to drastically reduce fuel consumption and its environmental impact:
A biomass project (operational since January 2014);
The construction of a hydropower dam, inaugurated in 2016.