An initiative to make use of old rubber trees by a Canadian renewable energy firm in Liberia is reaping rich dividends to the country’s economy. The project is reported to have helped the farmers to get cleared of the old trees and re-planted at no cost with guarantee of money for the tree trunks.
Buchanan Renewables Power (BRP) began commercial operations in Liberia two years ago with a complete rejuvenation package for the non-producing rubber tree estates. The deal for the farmers includes $2 per tonne of tree trunks, free of cost re-plantation and for self-use or sale tree remnants which do not go into the production of wood chips.
Liberia is estimated to have more than 600,000ha of overgrown and moribund rubber farms. The new model of rubber re-plantation rids of farmers’ laborious task of re-claiming their estates by cutting down trees and re-planting them spending money without revenues for a long period. After planting, the trees take nearly seven years to start producing rubber.
Usually rubber trees need to be replaced once they are over 25 years old, and most of them in Liberia are between 30 and 60 years old. While helping farmers, the new project will also provide electricity to communities in the vicinity as well as has opened up exports to the woodchip markets of Europe.
BRP uses massive diggers to uproot trees and a giant mincer to produce rubber wood chips out of the trunks. The company has exported 45,000MT of chips last year with contracts of about 90,000MT for this year; and plans to clear 10,000ha annually.
The Buchanan claims that it has the capacity to produce 400,000 tonnes of woodchips per annum. Besides, on many farms, it has been able to plant two trees for every one that has been harvested.
For Liberia it means that many of its citizens will be re-injected to the market with jobs and businesses, a dire need of the country that promises opportunities and improved living standards after the end of seven years of civil war. BRP says its vision is to achieve success in Liberia and repeat this model in other countries in Africa and, to the extent possible, worldwide.
The firm which emphasizes on cheap, environment-friendly and sustainable energy production with a social commitment to Liberia is putting back some of its revenues for power generation using the locally sourced wood chips. However, the proposed 35MW power generation plant at Monrovia which is supposed to provide electricity for half the price has not been installed yet even two years after its approval.
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