President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently toured the Chinese-aided bamboo and rattan weaving and vegetable growing project, a “technological cooperation between the governments of Liberia and the People’s Republic of China,” aimed at giving unskilled youths, marketable abilities as “Elements of Sustainability.”
According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf visited the Ministry of Youth and Sports China-Aided Bamboo Furniture Production, Rattan Weaving and Vegetable Planting Exhibition Program at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex Community in Paynesville City, Montserrado County.
“China has done quite a few things for Liberia, but this one is an element of sustainability,” President Sirleaf said. She recommended that with some of the students graduating from the training in using Liberian bamboo and cane to make living and dining room sets and other furnishings, the group will be established to provide jobs for themselves.
President Sirleaf said the training of the new craft workers and vegetable growers will result in Liberians providing for the needs of their compatriots. It means that the bamboo and rattan furniture-making in Liberia by Liberians, using Liberian natural resources will help government cut down on spending on the importation of furniture into the country.
She said their production will cut down costs and encourage other unskilled Liberians to go into the process aimed at sustaining their livelihood. President Sirleaf used the occasion to call on the Chinese authorities to go one step further by making the bamboo and rattan weaving and vegetable project competitive in order to compete with those exporting furniture from overseas so as to make those produced in Liberia marketable.
President Sirleaf said by doing this, it will help some of the young people involved with the Bamboo and Rattan Weaving and Vegetable Training Project to export their products of very high quality to other countries within the Mano River Union Basin and West Africa as a whole.
“By doing this, it will make this production a real local industry,” President Sirleaf noted.
She commended the government of the People’s Republic of China for the training and urged them to continue making Liberian youths marketable. She said the essence is to prevent them from getting into other activities far removed from the training that they have taken.
“To our good friends from China, thank you so much for the training that you are providing for these people,” the President said, adding that the skills training will enable young Liberians to earn a livelihood by making them productive.
In his remarks, Chinese Ambassador to Liberia, Zhang Yue said “Agriculture is a very important area in Liberia’s economic development.” As a result, China is trying to help in a meaningful way in this direction, he said, noting that “This Bamboo and Rattan Weaving team has expanded its project to the Klay Agricultural & Vocational Training Center to share techniques and skills with more youths.”
He assured that China will continue to support the Agricultural Technological Demonstration Center known as “Kpatawee Project” with an additional US$3 million to make it sustainable. “We are inviting more Chinese entrepreneurs to invest in Liberia in fishery, including marine fishing, freshwater aquaculture and aquatic products processing.”
Ambassador Zhang acknowledged that Liberia is a very rich country in bamboo, rattan, wood and other resources. He said making the best use of these renewable natural resources is a big potential and opportunity for the economic growth of the country. “This is a good way to boost employment and empowerment of women,” Ambassador Zhang said noting that the Chinese technical team has been working in Liberia for the past 10 years, training Liberians free of charge.
“This is a model capacity project because it helps the Liberian people to use Liberian resources to make Liberian products,” the Chinese envoy noted. “Our people are here promoting ‘made in Liberia, made by Liberians’ and made from Liberia,” the Chinese envoy said.
For his part, Youth and Sports Minister Saah Charles N’Tow informed President Sirleaf that those going through the training cycle have over the last five periods learned bamboo and rattan weaving and vegetable growing to the best of their ability. According to him, one of the main issues that the Ministry was now concerned about was to see how it can connect these trained producers and craftspeople to the local buying public and other markets.
The tour took the President around the production sites during which she inspected several bamboo, rattan and other products as well as the vegetable project where she saw water melon, cucumbers, hot pepper, Chinese onions, and other produce being cultivated.
The Chinese Aided Project started in 2007 and has completed five cycles and witnessed the training of more than 500 youths some of whom have been sent for advance training to China. About 105 of those trained have since graduated from the project and are currently running their own workshops while they are still being supported by the project.
Meanwhile, President Sirleaf made a brief stopover at the “Eye Center” in the compound of the John F. Kennedy Medical Center to inspect the level of work being done at the facility.
Upon her arrival President Sirleaf was led on a guided tour of the facility by the General Administrator of the JFK, Dr. Wvannie Scott MacDonald, and briefed by Sam Balasundaram, Associate Doctor, LV Prasad Eye Institute of India.