6.3.4 Increasing Ecological Degradation

Ecological degradation is increasing in most countries. This observation is partly the consequence of a great awareness of the problem. In former times, people just did not pay so much attention to these phenomena. In addition, there are numerous new developments which multiply the harmful effects on the environment. Population increase with all its consequences, the mechanization of agriculture, the use and misuse of chemicals, and an increasing cultivation of steep slopes are examples.

All of these are man made, and most of them are related to tenure. Dire poverty may require an excessive use of the land, even of fields that are unfit for cultivation. The eagerness to increase production may cause an excessive use of chemicals. In general, the people holding secure rights to land are careful not to cause any damage. In this case, only the lack of knowledge may play a role. The less permanent the rights to land are, the less there is an incentive to practice careful cultivation. On the contrary, an attitude of 'apres moi le d6luge' easily develops, often has to develop, because there are no other ways to make ends meet. This careless attitude may be emphasized as a result of the stage subsidizing inputs such as chemicals and thus making them so cheap that their excessive use is programmed.

There is a great discrepancy between awareness and public discussions on environmental problems, on the one hand, and knowledge as to what to do and how to behave, on the other hand. This is a gap which should be filled by proper training, but this is still to come.