IN 1926, the West African nation of Liberia was teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. It turned to an unusual source for help. Firestone, the Ohio-based tire company, lent Liberia a huge sum of money. In exchange, Firestone got to plant rubber trees on 1 million hectares of Liberia for the next 99 years.
To this day, Firestone’s rubber plantations take up roughly 4 percent of the country. But Liberia did not stop there. It gave away more land for commercial enterprises. Today, more than a quarter of all the land in Liberia is leased or owned by logging, mining, or factory-style agriculture companies.