Waiting for the Kimballs to arrive at Roberts International airport. I usually get a shoe shine when we pick up people from the airport.
It's deja vu all over again! We surprised Elder and Sister Kimball that we were the ones who picked them up at the airport. They are now humanitarian missionaries who do short term service - staying several weeks in a country to train and help local priesthood leaders and the full time humanitarian service missionaries serving in the country.
Dinner with great people at Donna Marie's Restaurant! l to r, the Miles - humanitarian service missionaries serving in Liberia, the Kimballs, the Hezseltines - replacing us a senior missionaries in Liberia, Sista Kirkham
We arranged with the Director of Public Affairs at the Firstone rubber tree plantation for our senior missionaries to get a tour of their operation. We went to their headquarters which is near the airport and near the Harbel mission branch. There are over 119,000 acres of rubber trees in this plantation. Firestone started in Liberia in 1926. In 2008, Firestone negotiated a "concessionary agreement" with the Liberian government allowing them to operate through 2041.
Firestone provides 27 schools for 16,000 children of Firestone employees at no cost. Firestone hospital (the best hospital in Liberia, we've been told by American doctors) treats 9,000 patients/month. They provide homes for employees. They've rennovated 2,000 homes since "the cessation of hostitilites" in 2003 when the Liberian civil war ended.
Firestone employs 7,000 "teammates", as they call their employees, who harvest, process rubber and work in the nursery. They showed us how they do grafting. A grafter (the person doing grafting) must have a 90-95% success rate to remain a grafter. This means that 90-95 % of the grafts they do must grow and be healthy.
Here you see a small, green piece of bark being grafted into another tree. The reason they graft is to produce trees with particular strengths. Each graft is of known "parentage." A piece of bark is cut open allowing the graft to be placed on the tree.
The graft is then wrapped to protect it. They use grafts to produce trees that are wind resistant, high yielding, disease resistant, etc. They need trees with different strengths depending on the environment where they will be planted. They wait 21 days to see if the graft is successful.
Once the graft is in place, the original sapling is cut off to force all the strengths of the roots to go to the graft. Firestone replants 3,500 acres per year with new trees. They told us that before the recent civil war, they used to replant 1,000 acres per year. However, due to the devastation of the war, they have been replanting 3,500 acres per year for several years.
Tapping rubber trees is called "controlled wounding." A tree is tapped for six years and then they let it rest for six years. Rubber trees produce for 30 years. The rubber tree plantation has three products: (1) latex, (2) block rubber from which tires are made, (3) wood from the rubber trees.
Every morning, a 1/16 inch cut is made into the tree to start the latex flowing.
The white line on the tree is latex which immediately started flowing.
You can see the latex dripping into the cup attached to the tree. Workers come around and collect from each of the cups.
Here's the cup attached to the tree filling with the latex sap.
The cups of latex are then collected in buckets and the latex pour into these containers.
The latex that is left in the cups after pouring out, coagulates and then is collected in the clumps. These clumps are what tires are made from. There are sprayed pink to identify them as from Firestone so people don't steal the clumps and try to sell them.
We cross this bridge all the time. Elder Hezseltine was driving and noticed the goat washing. He handed me his camera and I took this picture. It also shows the canoe just pulling in by the goats being washed.
This is another picture snapped seconds later showing the goats being washed.
To get to Caldwell where there are three branches and 8 missionaries, we have to go over a 1-way bridge. You can't see the other end of the bridge from either side. So, sometimes, like this day, a car will start across the bridge and another car has also started across the bridge coming right at you. The complication is there are usually several cars in a line going across the bridge. Getting two lines of cars facing each other requires coordinated backing up from one of the lines of cars. Deciding who will do the backing up sometimes leads to stalemate, like today. So, we went away and came back a half hour later and it was sorted out.