15 November 2012

Liberia: Situation Worsens At Cocopa Plantation

A joint Legislative Committee on Agriculture and Judiciary has reported that Cocopa Plantation Company in Nimba County lacks organized operational plan to improve the plantation and welfare of its workforce.

In a situational report to the Liberian Legislature recently, the joint committee noted that all residential camps at Cocopa are substandard and dilapidated, lacking bathrooms and toilet facilities.

The committee made the observation following a fact-finding visit on the plantation. "Due to the lack of sufficient housing for workers, makeshift structures are being built by the workers themselves, which do not befit their dwelling condition", the report added.

It said the plantation does not have high school and hospital after operating here for over 50 years. Cocopa started operation in Nimba in 1948 under a concession agreement with the Liberian Government. The agreement expired in 2009.

In March this year, a group of concerned citizens from a number of towns and villages in Nimba, including Garr, Gbannah, Lessonnon and Gbein petitioned the county Legislative Caucus to force the Liberia Company (LIBCO) to, among other things, pay reparation and resettlement benefits, construct decent residential quarters for the workforce.

The citizens also called on the LIBCO management to provide vocational school, safe drinking water, including severance and death benefits owed former employees.

The citizens' petition, which was forwarded to the House of Representatives through Nimba County District #8 lawmaker Hon. Larry P. Younquoi, was subsequently taken to plenary and discussed. Members of the House subsequently set up a joint legislative committee to assess the state of affair at Cocopa.

In view of the numerous lapses and the Cocopa management's inability to raise capital to improve crops and facilities, the committee has recommended to the Government of Liberia to nationalize the plantation and pay-off the current operators.

In March this year, the Government of Liberia through the National Investment Commission expressed disapproval ovber the abrupt restructuring of the management team that brought in Mr. Charles Trippe as head.

A NIC release in March said the government was about to rehabilitate the plantation, enhance labor condition, housing and medical facilities as well as replant over 60% of the existing trees, among others.

In September 1947, the Government of Liberia and the Liberia Company (LIBCO) entered into an agreement for the cooperative development of Cocopa Plantation Company. Under the agreement, an aggregate of 150,000 acres of government land was to be provided to LIBCO for agricultural purpose.

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