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Tunis, 12 September 2007- The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) on Monday in Tunis approved a € 10-million loan under its private sector window to finance the Tropical Agriculture Investment Company’s (SIAT) expansion project in Gabon.
The expansion project involves the following components: Oil Palm: (i) establishing a new 4,250-ha oil palm plantation and replanting 1,500-ha in Bindo; (ii) replanting a 750-ha oil palm plantation in Zilé; (iii) replanting a 1,000-ha oil palm plantation in Makouké; (iv) modernizing a palm oil mill and palm kernel crushing plant in Makouké; (v) expanding the capacity of the palm oil refinery in Lambaréné from 50 tpd to 75 tpd; (vi) modernizing the soap manufacturing plant in Lambaréné, and (vii) increasing the capacity of palm oil storage tanks in Lambaréné and Port Gentil by 3,000 tonnes. Rubber: (i) re-planting 4,100-ha nucleus rubber plantations in Bitam and Mitzic; (ii) supporting a 2,000-ha out-grower rubber scheme; and (iii) establishing a new crumb rubber line with a capacity of 40 tpd in Mitzic.
The project will have a strong development impact. At the local level, it will inject capital into the economy of Woleu-Ntem and Moyen-Ogooué provinces and help increase the living standards of the rural population. The expansion project will provide employment for an additional 520 permanent staff for field preparation, planting, harvesting oil palm fruit, and tapping rubber latex. The project will further support some 500 out-grower farmers. The project staff and out-growers will be provided regular training to enhance their skills and improve their productivity. At the national level, the project will help Gabon expand its oil palm and rubber industries and produce more value added products. It will also generate tax revenue for the state and help to generate foreign exchange earnings. The project will contribute to diversify Gabon’s economy, which is heavily dependent on oil.
Siat Gabon is actively involved in community development initiatives in the project area, providing social infrastructure such as roads, bore holes, and electricity. The company has created six modern townships dotted with over 900 houses for the workers. In addition, Siat Gabon has established "Cités cadres" with a total of 200 houses for senior staff, supervisors, and skilled workers in the project area. The project has further provided 8 primary schools in the neighboring communities with a combined enrollment of about 800 pupils. The company also operates 2 clinics, one for general healthcare and the other for maternal healthcare.
Women represent about 35% of the permanent workforce and about 40% of the seasonal workers. They are mainly involved in nursery activities, fruit collection, processing operations, quality control, and as office work. Women hold about 25% of the middle management positions in the company, including the post of Deputy MD. Women will benefit from a number of indirect jobs like retail shops and small restaurants to cater to the needs of the local population. The company operates a "village plantation program", under which women are encouraged to cultivate food crops in the company’s plantations within the first two years of planting. This has enabled the women to ensure household food security as well as generate additional incomes.