How to stop population growth #Rural Development

What kept me busy since we started with our Rural Development class was the video we watched about how to stop population growth with Hans Rosling. He stated that the only solution to stop population growth is to increase child survival. Is it really as simple as it sounds? What else can be done to stop population growth?

Population growth is defined as the “change in the size of a population – which can be either positive or negative – over time, depending on the balance of births and deaths” (Encyclopedia 2002). This is the global view and immigrations or emigrations don’t matter. Right now there are 7,022,236,217 people (Worldometers 2012) living on our planet and the distance between the poorest and the richest is greater than ever (Rosling 2010). The number is continuously growing to estimated 9.1 billion people in 2050 (United Nations 2010), the growth will mainly take place in developing countries.

Population growth is a huge problem because we have limited resources on our planet and more and more people cause environmental and health problems, like deforestation for food production, overcrowded cities and expansion of diseases (Vaux). Additionally population growth puts an enormous pressure on the food system, which has not only to produce more, but more in a sustainable way without the overexploitation of natural resources. The FAO (2009) estimates that the food production has to increase by 70% to be able to feed the “larger, more urban and richer population” in 2050.

So how to stop population growth? The measures can be divided into three sections – Education, Birth Control and Government Incentives (Vaux) – all accompanied by an increase of child survival.

“When you educate a woman, you educate a nation,” says Kalunde from Tanzania (Carrington 2011)

Education is crucial in reducing population growth. Women who know about family planning and how to care for their babies will have fewer children and a better quality of life. Additionally women need to be empowered and get access to education and healthcare (Oxfam 2011, 14).

Birth Control describes the possibility to prevent fertilization through several techniques, e.g. condoms or birth control pill. Hence birth control can prevent unwanted pregnancies and increase the self determination of women.

The Government can give Incentives, like tax breaks, to keep the family size low. These incentives can be accompanied by education projects to raise awareness about the costs of big families.

It doesn’t matter which way a government chooses to reduce population growth, one thing should be considered always: increase of child survival. Hans Rosling mentioned, that an increase of the life expectancy of children will result in a lower population growth, because woman can be sure that their children survive and count on quality rather than quantity. This is directly related to the fourth Millennium Development Goal, which aims to “Reduce child mortality” (UNDP 2012). You can watch here the Millennium News from Kenya on the fourth Millennium Development Goal (7:51 min):

Pinche aquí para ver el vídeo

“Almost nine million children still die each year before they reach their fifth birthday” (UNDP 2012) – the causes are mainly preventable.

Life expectancy (“average life span of a newborn”, Rosenberg 2010) can serve as an indicator on how healthy a country is. It will decrease if there are famine, war or diseases prevalent in a country and it can increase due to enhancements in health and hygiene. This already gives the starting point for the roadmap on how to increase child survival: Through improved hygienic condition, safe access to food and education and political stability. The main challenge will be to create the need for the governments to act and to overcome the unequal power relations.

I personally think that the strategy to stop population growth is a mixture of all measures described above and it must be adjusted to regional conditions. Child survival might be the key, but cannot remain the only action. We need education on family planning, at the same time techniques for birth control and enhancements in health and hygiene. We need to ensure a sustainable social and ecological development, equal opportunities and an increase of access to education.

Resources, last accessed 15.02.2012:

Carrington D (2011) Why women’s education in Tanzania is critical for slowing population growth,

Encyclopedia (2002) Population Growth,

FAO (2009) How to Feed the World in 2050,

Oxfam (2011) Growing a Better Future, Food justice in a resource-constrained world,

Rosenberg M (2010) Life Expectancy,

Rosling H (2010) Hans Rosling on global population growth,

UNDP (2012) Millennium Development Goal 4, Where do we stand?,

United Nations (2010) World Urbanization Prospects: The 2009 Revision Population Database,

Vaux R (without year) Ways to Stop Population Growth,

Worldometers (2012) Current World Population, 15.02.2012, 18:46,

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