Sunday, December 21, 2014

Underlying Causes of the Degradation of Upland Resources (Part 1)

by Antonio C. Antonio
December 20, 2014

Most problems in the uplands persist only because they are not addressed by identified solutions.  It would be ideal to revisit these problems with fresh perspectives in an effort to find new solutions to those that did not work in the past, such as:

POPULATION GROWTH AND INWARD MIGRATION IN THE UPLANDS – In many upland areas there is a steadily expanding population from both the natural growth of the indigenous population and inward migration from the lowlands.  This leads to increasing pressure on a finite, and often ecologically vulnerable, natural resource base.  The problem is exacerbated where population growth in taking place at the same as the natural resource base on which it depends is shrinking, therefore, where land degradation has already reduced the population of arable, pasture and upland areas within individual uplands.

POPULATION GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT IN THE LOWLANDS – Continuing population growth in the lowlands has resulted in increased urbanization and industrial development, with an ever expanding demand for water, electricity, timber, agricultural crops, and recreation facilities.  Meeting this demand may lead to local over exploitation of upland resources.  Continuing conversion of lowland farm land to non-agricultural uses (roads, houses, factories, offices, shops, etc.) has forced many farmers to migrate to the uplands in search of new farm land.

LAND TENURE – Suboptimal use and management of upland natural resources can largely be explained by the tenure regime under which the users operate.  The more insecure the user feels with regard to his/her long term rights to use a particular resource, the more incentive there is to exploit it to the maximum over the short term without considering its long term sustainability.  Land users require long term secure rights to use a particular piece of land and to harvest the produce from it before they will invest time and effort in sustaining its long term productivity.  Large parts of the upland in the public domain have become de facto open access resources.  As the people using them have no legal or customary rights (either for cultivation, grazing or for collection of upland products), there has been no incentive to conserve the productive potential of their natural resources (soil, water, vegetation, and animal).

POVERTY AND ECONOMIC DISADVANTAGE – Poverty is the underlying cause of much upland degradation within the Philippines.  The upland and mountain areas of the country are generally the poorest and least developed.  The on-site users of upland resources are predominantly rural.  Lack of alternative income generating activities means that most of them are dependent on small-scale farming and/or forestry activities for their livelihood.  Such “resource-poor” households can rarely afford to forego the chance of short term production (therefore, growing annual food crops on steep slopes) even when this is clearly non-sustainable, for the sake of long term conservation benefits (therefore, planting crops which may not give any productive returns for several years.

LACK OF MARKETS – Geographic isolation and the lack of well developed market infrastructure in most upland areas means that agriculture and forestry activities of upland communities have remained predominantly on the subsistence level.  Opportunities for increasing cash income are largely restricted to a small number of commodities that keep well, have high value, or are easily transported.  Lack of good roads and markets limits the scope for promoting the growing of perennial tree crops as an alternative to annual food crops on steep hill slopes, if the produce is perishable and bulky.  Regrettably, this is the case for most of the fruit tree crops currently promoted in Integrated Social Forestry (ISF) and Community Based Forest Management (CBFM) programs.

These problems were already identified and reported by the Forest Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.  Perhaps, you might have something better than the recommended solutions of the DENR-FMB to the underlying causes of the degradation of upland resources.

Just my little thoughts…

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