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Liberia, the African dream

Culture / -

©-Jane HahnCorbis

Liberia is one of Africa’s most fascinating countries, founded at the beginning of the 1800s by freed slaves returning from the United States of America. Today, the country is populated partly by their descendants and partly by roughly sixteen different ethnic groups, which together comprise a richly varied cultural weave. Liberia also offers a richly varied weave of natural resources, and landscapes varying from tropical rain forests to savanna and to rich mangrove swamps. In Expo Milano 2015, Liberia will celebrate its National Day on Tuesday October 27.

A freed people returning to the land of their forefathers to build a new nation, this was how Liberia was founded: as a colony made up of ex-slaves, freed in the United States. This happened in the early nineteenth century, after the American Colonization Society on the other side of the Atlantic had begun carrying out its project for sending freed African slaves back to their homelands so they could found their own promised land, bringing with them the progressive ideals and technologies of America. Over the next decades, thousands of Afro-Americans chose to follow this option, founding the “Land of Freedom”, or Liberia, and naming its capital city Monrovia after the American President James Monroe.
 
Forests and mangroves
 
Facing out onto the Atlantic from the northern coast of the Gulf of Guinea, the riches of Liberia’s nature make it one of the most invaluable treasure-troves of biodiversity on the planet. Its coastal area swarms with swamps and mangroves, offering habitats to countless bird and fish species. Inland, fertile coastal plains rise towards mountainous plateaus to the north. The abundant rain forests become less humid towards the north, until they end up as savanna. Overall, Liberia contains over 40 percent of the remaining forest lands of the Upper Guinea area, which once covered the entire area of the northern coast of the great West African Gulf. It still retains great variety in its fauna, including leopards and chimpanzees and even the extremely rare pygmy hippopotamus.
 
From rubber to food
 
Liberia still has a largely agricultural economy, with the majority of its population earning their living from subsistence farming methods. The most widespread crops are rice and cassava, the basic element of the national diet. As well as small farmers, larger enterprises also flourish, especially oil palm and rubber plantations, a sector traditionally controlled by US companies and which has played a big part in Liberia’s economic history. As everywhere in Africa, the population is growing rapidly, with an average of five children per family. At the same time, the cultivatable portion of the country’s total area is only 24 percent, which creates a challenging prospect in terms of food security. Liberia is facing this situation by giving priority to political stability, social cohesion and food production. Another sector which can play a major role is fishing and aquaculture, thanks to the vast marine and fluvial water reserves. Another major potential contributor to the Liberia’s African dream lies beneath its surface, which is extremely rich in minerals, gold and diamonds.
 

The Maldives. A sustainable paradise in blue

Culture / -

© Michele Falzone/JAI/Corbis

The Maldives Archipelago is a paradise for tourists: clean sea, clean nature. But these islands also have set an admirable example in environmental protection and in their use of renewable energy sources.

The Republic of Maldives is an archipelago of 1,192 coral islands with white sand, set in the dazzling blue of the Indian Ocean: a holiday paradise for lovers of the sea, situated south-west of India and Sri Lanka. 202 of the islands are inhabited, and roughly 80 have tourist facilities. The native population is of both Indian and Arab origin, both sharing the Islamic faith but also preserving their rich and different cultural roots.
 
The first green economy in the world
As well as being famous for delighting tourists, the Maldives can boast the first green economy in the world: it is entirely independent of fossil energy, exploiting above all wind and sun for its electricity, plus small quantities of biodiesel, some produced locally and some imported.
 
Average temperatures vary between 26° and 31° C throughout the year, and the sea temperature is always perfect for swimming. April is the hottest month, but the constant monsoon breeze reduces the sensation of humidity and maintains a climate suitable for tourists.
 
A dreamlike Pavilion
The Maldives Pavilion, built by a team from Milan’s Bicocca University, is situated in the Islands, Sea and Food Cluster: visitors can admire stunning photos of the life of its fishermen on the coral coastline and  of its sustainable organic farming system, run by a group of local businesswomen… surrounded by images of this unique natural paradise in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
 
 

Colombia, a reserve of astonishing beauty perched between two oceans

Cultura / -

 
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© libardo trujillo/Demotix/Corbis
© Macduff Everton/Corbis
© Jeremy Horner/Corbis
© Christian Heeb/JAI/Corbis
© Jane Sweeney/JAI/Corbis
© Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis

Colombia offers beautiful landscapes within different climatic zones: 11 percent of the territory is protected by the National Parks System and 31 of these reserves open their doors to tourists. Biodiversity is one of Colombia's attractions, but the country also has six cultural sites and two natural parks that have been declared World Heritage Sites.

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