23 September 2010
The day began in the driving rain at 0630 am driving a Nissan Patrol 4x4 from Monrovia to Buchanan. The roads were great until 17km past the airport when the smooth Chinese made road came to an abrupt end and the bone jarring five hour torture began. We covered 150 km in five hours as the rain gradually stopped and the sun came out. About half way into the trip we reached an old rusty iron bridge under repair and had to wait for an hour while the bridge was put back together. Heavy traffic had pushed the 1/4 inch steel plates off some of the iron girders over the mocha river so a work crew was spreading out the plates and welding them to the girders.
The bridge work was being done by a maintenance crew from Liberian Agriculture Company (LAC), a rubber company located outside Buchanan and competitor of Firestone. We visited LAC and took a tour and the guides told us that they agreed to maintain the roads since all the rubber they produce has to be trucked to Monrovia over the same road in semis carrying 20 foot trailers weighing several tons each.
The LAC plantation was nice, but the rubber tapper villages and schools weren't as nice as the Firestone plantation and recently the workers protested the LAC headquarters to demand benefits comparable to Firestone.
After the tour of the Liberian Agriculture Company rubber plantation we drove back to Buchanan to check out Buchanan Renewable Energy (BRE). They harvest the rubber trees that are too old to produce any more and chip them onsite and truck them to the port in Buchanan. At the port the wood chips are loaded on boats to Europe where the wood chips are burned as fuel instead of coal.