It was a joyous and colorful day for citizens of Tarjuowon and Sinoe as one of Liberia’s biggest private sector employers, Golden Veroleum Liberia on 19 April 2016 dedicated a mini mill in Tarjuowon Statutory District, Sinoe County with Vice President Joseph Boakai gracing the occasion as key note speaker.
The occasion brought together youth, elders, women, traditional leaders, District and county authorities, the Sinoe legislative caucus, GVL senior management and investors, Butaw Welfare Development Association, Butaw District authorities, GVL’s general workforce and several officials of government.
During the ceremony, more than 150 gallons and 30 drums of first run makino oil labeled ‘Sinoe’s own GVL first palm oil from the fertile soil of Sinoe communities’ produced from the mini mill were distributed to community members, government officials and other attendees.
Giving an over view of GVL operations, David Rothschild, one of GVL’s Managing Directors, said the project is a dream come through for Golden Veroleum Liberia, adding that oil palm which has its origin in West Africa is being brought home through large scale investment and with huge benefits for Liberia.
“In 2009 GVL started exploring opportunities to operate in Liberia with the goal of helping the Liberian government to reduce poverty through the provision of jobs, community development, education and health. Today we are celebrating a very important milestone for the company, the communities who have allowed us to develop their lands for oil palm, and the country. It is a joy for us to celebrate with the government and our partner communities as we dedicate our mill,” said Rothschild.
The GVL Director says a similar project will be replicated in Grand Kru, stating that today is the mini mill; in 2017 GVL will be commissioning its main mill, which is 15 times larger than the mini mill and is currently under construction in Tarjuowon, Sinoe County. He said, with the backing of their Indonesian investors, the mill project was constructed with the close support of GVL’s 7 Liberian engineers, who were sent to Indonesia for training in mill engineering for one year.
“This was valuable experience for them. As their experience increases, they will play an increasingly important leadership role in the construction and operation of future mills”, Rothschild said. Rothschild concluded by saying that the mini mill was constructed after Vice President Joseph Boakai visited Indonesia and appealed for it, with the goal of not letting the palm spoil.
“This all started after his appeal, and we are very happy to have him officially dedicate this project. He said to GVL, please get a mini mill to process the available palm so that we can consume it in Liberia rather than leaving it to spoil,” Rothschild concluded.
Delivering his keynote address at the program, Vice President Joseph Boakai extolled GVL for the investment so far. VP Boakai said GVL operations in Liberia bring considerable benefits to southeast counties especially Sinoe and Grand Kru.
He thanked the people of Sinoe for the level of cooperation which led to the development of oil palm estates by GVL which are now helping to improve the livelihood of local communities.
Ambassador Boakai said that, notwithstanding all the difficulties faced in acquiring land, GVL remains committed to investing and staying in Liberia. For this he said, the Government of Liberia will do all in her power to protect the investment.
VP Boakai said the dedication of the mill is a clear manifestation of GVL’s commitment toward improving the livelihoods of its host communities and the south eastern communities as a whole.
“I’m glad that something good has come out of the Liberian soil and Liberians have acquired skills they never had. I want to urge you the host communities to protect, work with and encourage GVL investment and you will surely benefit. You have to hold onto this company so that more jobs will be created, better houses will be built and everybody will see the benefits” he concluded.
Sinoe County’s Superintendent Thomas Romeo Quiah described the presence of GVL in Sinoe County as a blessing to the people of the county and the entire southeast of Liberia with the employment of thousands of Liberians and the construction of bridges and other infrastructures in Tarjuowon and other parts of the county.
He used the occasion to thank the Sinoe Legislative Caucus and the people of Tarjuowon District for the level of cooperation toward GVL and the project. “This is one of the remarkable things we been looking for, GVL will not go, GVL will stay, the land will not go, the land will stay and we will jointly work together with GVL to develop and grow together.” Superintendent Quiah told the gathering.
He said government does not give wealth but creates the enabling environment that will produce wealthy individuals which is now the case with the people of Sinoe and Grand Kru. He assured GVL that there will always be a conducive and amicable working relationship between GVL and the people of Sinoe.
Also speaking at the ceremony, Sinoe County Senator Milton Teahjay thanked President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and vice president Joseph N. Boakai for their support and encouragement that led to GVL staying in Sinoe with all the ups and downs. He also thanked the people of Tarjuowon for the acceptance of GVL that has brought employment, infrastructural development and other social benefits to the community.
Senator Teahjay said the dedication of the mini mill is the beginning of many other projects that GVL will bring to Sinoe County. He said he is looking for an opportunity where GVL will go to other parts of Sinoe to bring considerable benefits to other communities.
The former superintendent said though there will be lots of disagreement during the operation, GVL has shown by its actions that it is committed to the wellbeing of the people of Sinoe and Liberia at large and as leaders of the Sinoe, they will do all in their power to guide GVL and protect the investment. “We will do we can to protect this company so that our people will continue to enjoy increased employment and development opportunities,” he said.
Senator Teahjay concluded by saying that he foresees a mini Indonesia in Sinoe County with the presence of Golden Veroleum Liberia in the next 10 years. “I saw what oil palm did in Indonesia and I am sure in the next 10 years, there will be a mini Indonesia in Sinoe” he concluded.
In separate remarks, the agriculture coordinator of Sinoe and Kulu Paramount Chief Johnny Brown praised GVL for the project. “We are sure more development will come in Tarjuowon and Sinoe as a whole with the presence of GVL. That is why when we have issues, we invite GVL to strengthen our relationship. We will continue to grow together with you,” he said.
Prior to the mill commissioning, the Butaw district authorities, Butaw Welfare Development Association and citizens ceremonially harvested the first official fresh fruit bunches from Butaw and carried it to the dedication ceremony. The Butaw delegation praised GVL for the development for working closely with the people of Butaw to resolve differences and remain committed to bringing development to the community.
The project seeks to locally supply crude palm oil to the Liberian market for local consumption. The mini mill is built with the capability of processing 5 tons of fresh fruits bunches per hour. GVL’s main mill which is under construction in Tarjuowon is expected to be completed within a 24 months schedule.
When completed, the main mill will process 80 tons per hour, with a bucking station also under construction at the Samuel Alfred Russ port of Greenville. GVL has completed the training of at least 54 Sinoe citizens in the harvesting of fresh fruit bunches.
The training benefited Liberian assistant managers, field conductors and division clerks in the county. The training seeks to develop expert supervisors from the local communities as harvesting continues. Golden Veroleum Liberia is the largest user of the Samuel Alfred Russ Port in Greenville, Sinoe County and the biggest private sector employer in the Liberian Southeast. At least 3,700 Liberians are currently in the employ of Golden Veroleum Liberia. GVL seeks to employ 35-40,000 employees when fully developed in Liberia.