Joe goes to the cocoa farm

17 March, 2011 • Viktor Bengtsson • 3 minutes to read

(Post from old blog.)

While I spent the weekend in Monrovia catching up on 3 weeks of minimal sleep, my stalwart business partner Joe went up to the LibSwe Cocoa nursery to see how things were coming along.

Joe on a motorcycle

Joe enjoying the dry season road dust.

It's encouraging to see some solid road construction going on in Liberia this dry season. It seems that the Government of Liberia along with international partners have finally stumbled upon the right formula for building roads (international donor finances + local contractor builds + international engineer oversees). The road from Totota to Sanoyie is a good example of this. The road has a good grade, well-dimensioned ditches and plenty of really solid drainage.

The road from Totota to Sanoyie has improved

The road from Totota to Sanoyie has been improved this dry season.

Road drainage works

There are about 15-20 sites of solid drainage works like this on the road.

The town of Sanoyie

The charming town of Sanoyie.

Friday is market day in Sanoyie (neighboring villages with markets all schedule their markets on separate days to enable sellers to attend several markets in a week) and the best time to find fresh plantain, pineapple, chicken, non-descript bushmeat. It is also the best day to see incredibly run-down cars with huge loads and most often people perched on top.

Overloaded pickup on dirt road

Market day is overload-your-horrendously-broken-down-pickup-day.

Spice drying in the sun

Spice going to the market.

The nursery is developing very nicely. We are seeking over 90% germination which means that we could plant 3 hectares (7-8 acres) of cocoa later in the year. This in turn could yield up to 4.5 tonnes of cocoa per year at peak production (the current market value of a metric ton of cocoa is above US$3000). The time we invested in finding the best possible soil for our nursery bags seems to have paid off as all seedlings are coming up strong.

Inspecting the cocoa nursery

Joe inspecting the nursery.

Cocoa seeds germinating in nursery

We seem to have picked good soil for our nursery bags.

Young cocoa plants

90+ percent germination.

The weather patterns in Liberia continue in their altered state. Normally this period should be very dry, but in the last 2-3 years the rains have continued well into the dry season (rains persisting even in December) and then starting well before the rainy season. The change seems to enhance the locally prevailing patterns, so Sanoyie which usually sees more rain than other parts of the interior has had several rainy days in February and March. We had to repair parts of the shade due to damage from rain.

Cocoa nursery shade

The nursery shade required some repairs during the weekend.

Shaded cocoa nursery

The shade is still ok.

The main purpose of the trip was to inspect the nursery but also make sure that the routines for maintaining the nursery were working. As a consequence of the rains the need for watering has been less than expected. We're also going to try to get our local personnel to fill in a daily chart so that we can track the progress of the nursery. It will probably not work this year but we need to start working on it if we are going to establish a larger nursery next year (perhaps ten times the size).

Man tending cocoa nursery

Peewu, master of the nursery.

The cocoa nursery team

The local nursery team.

All in all we are moving along as expected. The next major job is to mark and clear the plantation itself. There are many more trips to Sanoyie in store for us before LibSwe Cocoa and the local staff can stand on their own.