What’s About The Port City of Buchanan in Grand Bassa County

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The City of Buchanan is a beautiful natural bay that lies at the month of the St. John River and the Atlantic Ocean. Called Port of Cresson at its founding in 1832 as a settlement for Free Blacks from New York and Philadelphia, it was destroyed by the Bassa People in a local conflict in 1858 (Hale, S. J., Liberia; or, Mr. Peyton’s Experiments 1853).

It was reestablished months later under the Bassa Cove and became part of the commonwealth of Liberia in 1839. The port city was renamed Buchanan after Thomas Buchanan, the Cousin of US President James Buchanan. Thomas was also the second governor of the Commonwealth of Liberia.

Prior to independence, the entire region was economically viable. The conflict between British traders over the payment of customs duty to the Commonwealth of Liberia in the 1840s occurred at the Port of Edina.

Today that port and city which was also the site of a fist-fight between Amos Herring and Ephraim Titler, two of the signatories to Liberia’s Declaration of Independence, over their disagreement on some provisions of the Constitution during the conduct of the Constitutional Referendum on September 27, 1847 (Richardson, N.R, 1959, Liberia Past’s and Present) remain dormant for the most part. 

Some notable persons born or raised in Buchanan or Edina are Joseph James Chesson (Edina 1843), 12th President of Liberia; Dessaline Harris (Buchanan 1895), member of the Supreme Court; Daniel Edward Howard (Buchanan 1861), 16th President of Liberia; JOAKIM SUNDSTRÖM (raised in Buchanan), world renown supervising sound editor, sound designer and musician who was born in Sweden but raised in Buchanan.

His credits include 2014 EFA European Sound Designer, a number of Oscar, BIFA and BAFTA-winning films including Seven Psychopaths (2012), Fish Tank (2009), The Constant Gardener (2006), Touching The Void (2003) and The Berberian Sound Studio (2012); Marcus Yates Andreasson (Buchanan 1978), retired Swedish International Soccer.

Although this port city has been surrounded by vibrant industrial operations, economic prosperity for the larger population of the people has always been elusive. Its best days were the years during the mining operations of the Liberian-American Swedish Joint Venture Minerals Company, commonly known as LAMCO, because of the large number of the population that benefited from sustained employment and social services.

Buchanan has been the center for timber and logging, iron ore, rubber, oil palm export, production of flour, fishing, rail transport hub to northeast interior and land transport hub to the south eastern region. It has also been a major commercial city serving leeward counties; a city with unmatched religious and social affinity.

The repaving of the road from Monrovia to the city by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf government has made the city even more accessible to the more affluent areas of Monrovia, Kakata and Harbel.

Buchanan today is still an economically deprived city.  Not so long after the early boom created by the presence of large companies (Buchanan Renewable Energy – BRE, Arcelor Mittal, LAC, Equatorial Palm and others), economic activities have largely dissipated.

BRE has folded and most other companies have scaled down their operations, with Arcellor Mittal laying off nearly 65% of its staff.  There are, however three key economic drivers that if harness properly can make Buchanan a sustained and vibrant prosperity center in the region. For these three areas to have their best impact, growth and development must be characterized by majority local ownership.

The Fishing Industry

The potential for large wealth creation through a developed fishing industry cannot be over stated. Fishing currently in the Buchanan is rudimentary and more recreational than commercial. Unfortunately, the local fishermen on their own are unable to scale up the industry either for lack of knowhow or funding. Rather than await that elusive investor, government through the relevant agencies, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry Finance and Development Planning, Port and Maritime Authority, must formulate an industrial fishery development plan with the aim of setting up large proficiency cold storage, befitting fishing pier,  smart measures for some form of Liberian own fishing corporation, guarantee the provision of mid to large size fishing trawlers through some form of lease-purchase funding solution, facilitate training of local businesses and fishermen in the operations and management of large fishing and seafood processing operations, and identify overseas markets for the export of Liberia’s rich marine resources. Once developed, this industy will perpetuate, as the demand for seafood in the more affluent countries is ever increasing.

Although conditions may not be identical, study of the Republic of Peru, one of the world leading fishing country, best illustrates the value of developing an efficient fishing industry. Today fishery accounts for 25% of Peru’s export earnings (US1.24 Billion in 2001) and employees more than 100,000 persons in the fishing and fish product processing industry (FAO, Fishery Country Profile-Republic of Peru), directly and indirectly.

One way to look at the development of fishery in Liberia would be the creation of a National Fishing Company with government as the majority equity holder, at least from the onset. Liberia’s fishery is a natural low hanging fruit that can be harness easily and has the potential to create enormous boost to our economy and economic viability to Buchanan and other coastal cities.

Leaving the exploitation of our rich marine heritage to the initiatives of small, poorly equipped fishermen has not worked for us. That model and the same result has been allowed to linger to our collective loss also in our agriculture sector. Let us rethink this industry in Liberia and create a new paradigm shift. Government must lead more aggressively in creating the enablers of growth in this very lucrative industry. Foreign investment in this area will not do. Let us help Liberians own this one in a big way.

Timber & Wood Processing

The timber and wood processing industry is the second area of natural advantage that can be harness responsibly to create economic viability in the city of Buchanan. Fully cognizant of the environmental concerns of our global partners to reduce the felling of tree and its impact on global warming, we can formulate policies that take into account necessary conservation measures but allows the development of wood processing facilities to create wood products like furniture similar to that which has been mastered by the Firestone Rubber Company using rubber wood. Liberia is still one of the largest remaining green forest in the region. Our forestry industry is a major job bank for our youth and must be explored within reason to provide income and wealth for our people. 

The Granite Industry

According to a US Geological Survey 1998 study (The Geology of Liberia, R. Lee Hadden), Liberia is perched on the West African Shield, a rock formation from 2.7 to 3.4 billion years old. Translated, the entire country is sitting on different forms of rock formations.

Along the coast lie beds of sandstone, with occasional crystalline-rock outcrops.  Monrovia stands on such an outcropping, a ridge of diabase (a dark-colored, fine-grained rock). Most of the crystalline rocks are of Precambrian age. The western half of country is typically of Archean age. In the eastern half of the country, lenses of Proterozoic greenstone belts occur.

These are all the right conditions in Liberia for local ownership and production of rock products for construction and export; for example, of granite counter tops, tile and other rock products that command high value in the global market place. Exploitation of these reserves would require support in the procurement of machinery and knowledge transfer. The high labor intensity of industries around these reserves would open opportunities for the employment of large numbers of Liberians.

Contentment with individual or small family projects with their primary tools being slag hammer will not impact wealth creation in this sector. Government needs to device ways by which claims can be provided to targeted Liberia communities and the relevant equipment placed at the disposal of these local companies under some creative funding program.

The state of our cities and the economic condition of our people is in part due to our preference for solutions driven by conventional thinking and reluctance to think harder about our lowly station and device pragmatic outside of the box solutions around our natural advantages. Too often we condition our growth and development on the intervention of outsiders; that is why outsiders profit most from that which is ours. God did not behest us this land without due consideration for the resources that would prosper our people.

God will not send angles to convert the opportunities to value. We must, hard as it may seem, employ our own agencies and faculties to harness what raw resources the God of creation has placed at our disposal. Our government, because of its size and reach, is the only known enabler of our engines of grown.

Cyrus L Gray, Contributing Writer

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