After years of devastation, followed by persistent confusion, the Cocopa Rubber Plantation in Nimba County is now regaining its prewar status with the new management—Nimba Rubber Incorporated (NRI) refurbishing most of the facilities that were destroyed during the country’s 14-year civil crisis.
The Human Resource Manager, J. Gondeh Nenwah, said since NRI resumes operations in January, last year, following series of strike actions, the plantation is now stable and calm to the extent that the schools and clinics have resumed normal operations.
Nenwah said NRI’s management team has rehabilitated nearly all the roads linking one camp to the other within the concession area, and even on the main highway connecting Ganta to the Plantation, thereby increasing free flow of vehicles in and around the plantation.
“Since we resumed operations there is relatively calm on this plantation, so we have five schools smoothly in session as well as the main clinic,” Nenwah said.
With such achievements in short period of time, Mr. Nenwah attributed the low pace of development to the fall in rubber price on the world market, but said in spite of the difficulty, workers were getting their salary, although not yet regularized.
“Despite those conditions, management has stabilized monthly rice ration,” he said.
As of criminal activities including rubber theft, Mr. Nenwah said those are things that management has drastically reduced since operations began early last year.
Nenwah explained how the company is now buying rubber from nearby farmers across Nimba at the same rate in Firestone was offering.
However, the NRI is anticipating to revamp the rubber processing factory, so as to process all their products before taking them to the market.
Mr. Nenwah said the factory will also serve as center for the purchase of unprocessed rubber from local farmers in Nimba and beyond.
“We are happy that since last year January, we have not encountered any protest compare to the previous years, our children are school, things are on good footing, so we thank God,” one of the staffers said.
“We are in partnership with a Chinese Company to construct wood factory on the plantation from the old and non productive rubber trees and, if things improve, we will subsequently employ a good number of citizens,” Nenwah said.
The Nimba Rubber Inc. (NRI) took over from the original owner of the concession, “the Liberia Company (LIBCO)”, after LIBCO lost a lawsuit to the government over bad labor practices.
The company has since been rocked by series of unrests, especially from 2005 to 2015, when suspected criminals wreaked havoc, coupled with workers’ strike actions, which mostly led to destruction of company’s facilities.
The latest of such protest was the one that paralyzed every activity at the plantation for the last quarter of 2016, when the workers called on the management to pay all their wages and other benefits.