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.