Assignment: Commercial Plantations
Land tenure also poses a significant problem in many least developed countries. In some areas, land ownership—and local power—is highly concentrated; in others, land is fragmented into parcels too small to be profitable. In Africa, communal ownership of rural land is (or was) common. But as commercial plantations encroach on village land, cash crops such as maize, rice, and coffee replace traditional food crops. Young men and women are forced leave in search of work. Many become migrant farm workers, earning paltry wages during the crop-growing season.
Finally, damage to the environment is an ever-growing problem in the least developed countries. Native plants and animals are disappearing in many places, water and air pollution is rising, soil degradation and deforestation are occurring at an alarming rate from Indonesia to Brazil and in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, causing floods, soil erosion, and loss of wildlife habitat.
The idea of progress and the closely related concept of development are both outgrowths of the Western experience. But we now know that societies in the throes of modernization are also, paradoxically, among the most vulnerable to disintegration and decay—from better to worse. As the famed political scientist, Samuel Huntington, wisely observed, “Modernization in practice always involves change in and usually the disintegration of a traditional political system, but it does not necessarily involve significant movement toward a modern political system…. Yet the tendency is to think that because social modernization is taking place, political modernization must also be taking place.”*
The promise of development all-too-often collides with the realities of poverty, corruption, and ethnic hatred in the former colonial areas. In recent decades, the world has witnessed a grim spectacle of states and societies self-destructing and in the process destabilizing neighboring states. Clearly, development has its discontents and comes with no guarantees, no owner’s manual. In many parts of the world, it has not come at all.
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