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The Boston Globe


farah stockman

Land rushes — and the people left behind

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.

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