Liberia: RPAL Inducts New Corps of Officers

The Rubber Planters Association of Liberia (RPAL) has elected and inducted a new leadership team, headed by its president, Wilhelmina G. Mulbah Siaway.

The induction ceremony was held on Friday, February 23, 2024, at the eighth national congress of the Rubber Planters Association of Liberia (RPAL) in Cooper’s Farm, Todee District, near Kakata, Montserrado County.

The eighth national congress was held under the theme “Improving the National Economy through Value Addition Inclusivity in the Rubber Sector.”

RPAL is an association with the mission to play an advocacy role for maximum economic empowerment for Liberian rubber farmers through inclusivity and value enhancement. RPAL’s vision is to lead the way to transform the Liberia rubber industry through production and manufacturing to drive maximum benefits for Liberia.

With the goal to also increase rubber processing and manufacturing plants throughout the 15 counties for the production of tires, gloves, and hoses, as well as develop a rubber research institute to enhance the manufacturing capacity of Liberian rubber, facilitate the acquisition of loans for small farmers, and provide technical assistance to enhance farmers’ growth and development.

This is Siaway’s second term at the helm of the Rubber Planters Association of Liberia. She was elected as the new president of RPAL in 2019, a term she served for two years.

The other officers elected include Mr. Bannie Browne, Vice President for RPAL, five representatives of the processors union, and coordinators for the fifteen counties, with one person elected from the large farmers' union as the head.

Wilhelmina G. Mulbah Siaway, in her acceptance speech, extends her appreciation to RPAL for confiding and trusting in her with the responsibility to work along with them to transform the sector.

“We need to work collectively to be able to transform the sector. Transforming the sector in terms of value addition means not only relying on producing raw rubber but also thinking forward to how some of this rubber can be turned into products,” she said.

According to her, coming back as president of RPAL was not based on her own decision, but it was the members who requested her to come back so that they could collectively move the sector forward in terms of transformation and development.

“RPAL has been in existence since 1964, and taking over as a young person and a female leader, within a short period of time, the level of work that I did proved my case and my own innovation in the sector,” she added.

“So all the county coordinators, we want to have a regional office that they will recognize, and the activity of RPAL will not just be on course, but it will impact the farmers themselves.

Tom Bannie Browne, RPAL Vice President, said it is an honor for him to work with Wilhelmina G. Mulbah Siaway on transforming the sector.

“The president is very resourceful; she has been the visionary of this association (RPAL).”

According to him, Siaway had brought RPAL to the international spotlight by causing RPAL to excel at the international rubber research board with headquarters in Thailand.

“She has taken us to two international conferences that admitted Liberia into the world rubber summit — Sri Lanka in 2016 and Côte d’Ivoire in 2018,” he added. “So we feel that her ascent over the last two years and other things that the smallholder farmers have been trying to do, we think she can make a difference, and with this, I feel confident that I can work with such a person I have known.”

Browne said their leadership will make sure to make the rubber farmers more proactive by giving them mobility and visiting them at the chiefdom, clan, and district levels.

However, he mentioned that they have passed a resolution that will strengthen farmers, put them into clusters, and also form them into corporations so that they can be more effective, and people will know that there is an entity called the Rubber Planters Association of Liberia.

“We will also press forward to maintain this moratorium. The exportation of unprocessed rubber is harming this economy in social terms, resulting in the loss of jobs and the loss of needed revenue for the sector. And these are the things that we will pursue in our tenure and time by serving our people," he concluded.

The inauguration ceremony was attended by a cross-section of rubber planters and farmers. The event was also attended by rubber entrepreneur Upjit Singh Sachdeva and his entourage. The new leadership of the Rubber Planters Association (RPAL) has a daunting task ahead of them. However, with the support of the planters and the farmers, they are well-positioned to achieve great things.