HARPER, Liberia, 29 March 2011 - The President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, today broke ground for a rubber science and technology Institute - an initiative of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the William V. S. Tubman University - supported by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and funded by the Government of Japan.
The Government of Japan funded a USD 1.6 million joint proposal by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry for the rehabilitation of training centers in vulnerable communities in Liberia.
As part of this project, USD 575,000 have been allocated to rehabilitate the Tubman University infrastructure to accommodate the institute; develop a curriculum for rubber and rubber wood processing; provide basic equipment; install a 20 kilowatt photovoltaic solar energy system to supply the energy to the institute; and train faculty in rubber processing and rubber wood processing curriculum.
Liberia has abundant natural rubber resources. According to World Investment News, the importance of the rubber sector has come to over 60 per cent of the total export of the country. There are about 400,000 acres of rubber in Liberia and the industry provides constant employment opportunities for the population.
The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Miata Beysolow, expressed gratitude to the Government of Japan and hope that the funding for this project would continue despite the devastating earthquake, the tsunami, and the crisis at the nuclear plant.
University President, Elizabeth Davis-Russell, said that the institute, which is expected to operate in a year, will provide qualified staff to the rubber industry and help develop local entrepreneurship so Liberia can end exports of raw products and instead sell abroad processed products.
Speaking on behalf of UNIDO, John Daniels, who coordinates the project, said: “This event marks the beginning of a new approach designed to elevate the rubber industry in Liberia to the next level in terms of adding value and processing its natural rubber produce into finished related rubber products. UNIDO believes that the Institute will create an increasing number of expertise among the young people of Liberia to become the human resource base that will attract investors and support the development of the rubber and rubber wood processing industries in the country.”
He added that UNIDO was committed to contribute to the reconstruction efforts of the Government of Liberia, most importantly to its vision, “Liberia Rising 2030”, and that the Organization supported the capacity building of institutional and human resources, which are critical to Liberia’s recovery and renewal for the social and economic developments, sustained stability and the reduction of youth unemployment.
He thanked the Government of Japan for its generous support to the project.
In 2009, UNIDO and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry trained twelve instructors and technicians, including five from the University of Liberia, in polymer and rubber processing technologies in Harper. This initiative received strong interests of the rubber industry, and will shortly be incorporated into the curriculum of the Tubman University.