Relationship between population growth and food supply

The Relationship between Population Growth and Food Supply | marinaecology

relationship between population growth and food supply

This study examines the relationship between agriculture growth and population growth rates in countries around the world. In particular, this. IMPACT OF POPULATION GROWTH ON FOOD SUPPLIES AND about the growing imbalance between the world's population and the. In recent decades there has been impressive growth in food production, which has in 51 developing countries while rising in only 43 between and .

If unchecked, wrote Malthus, a population could grow geometrically, but given a limited area of cropland its food supply could grow only arithmetically, at best.

These arguments raised the specter of "gigantic inevitable famine," which by raising the death rate would be the ultimate factor in restoring a rough balance between the population's size and its food supply. Population and Food Supply—Recent History Concern that population growth might outstrip the capacity to raise food production has been expressed many times since Malthus—particularly during the period from towhen the world's population increased from about 2.

Writers like Paul Ehrlich and Lester Brown doubt whether food output can be raised to match this demographic growth. They see a future of mounting food supply difficulties, increasing hunger, and famines.

However, the global death toll from famines has fallen very considerably since the mid-twentieth century.

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And while acknowledging that the world food situation and outlook have many problems, most analysts, including Nikos Alexandratos in ; Tim Dyson in ; Donald Mitchell, Merlinda Ingco and Ronald Duncan in ; and Alex McCalla and Cesar Revoredo intake a significantly more positive view.

The relationship between food supply and population is complex. There is no doubt that average levels of per capita food availability for the world as a whole have increased appreciably during recent decades.

Thus the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization FAO estimates that between the period from to and the period from to the average daily global level of per capita calorie i.

However, most of the world's population growth during this period happened in poor regions, like South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where it is estimated that sizeable fractions of the populations are undernourished i.

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Consequently, FAO estimates that the total number of undernourished people in the world declined only modestly in the same period: East Asia—Positive Developments At a broad regional level progress has been very variable. The most positive developments have occurred in East Asia.

relationship between population growth and food supply

In China the period since has seen major gains in average per capita calorie supplies and protein intake, and the diet has generally become better and more diverse. Per capita incomes have risen, and with increased incentives to invest and increase their production, farmers have sharply increased their output of most foodstuffs—notably rice, wheat, fruits, vegetables, and pork.

However, because there is little new land that can be brought into cultivation, almost all of this increase in food production has come about through processes of agricultural intensification: China has invested heavily in crop research—especially in developing higher yielding varieties of rice—and Chinese farmers have also sharply raised their use of chemical fertilizers.

Southeast Asiathe Middle Eastand Latin America —Mixed Results In Southeast Asiathe Middle Eastand Latin America there have also been significant gains in average levels of per capita food availability during recent decades—despite the occurrence of considerable population growth. Diets have generally become more varied, and the populations of these regions have experienced marked rises in their average supplies of calories and protein—again, mainly due to increased food crop yields.

Population growth and the food crisis

The technological developments arising from the so-called Green Revolution starting in the late s—especially the introduction of higher-yielding varieties of rice and wheat, combined with greater applications of nitrogenous fertilizers on irrigated land—have benefited most countries. However, in the Middle East, where water for agriculture is often in short supply, many countries have also turned to purchasing sizeable quantities of cereals on the international market—much of which is then used as livestock feed in order to produce meat.

Indeed, some Middle Eastern countries rely upon cereal imports for as much as half of all the grain they use. This is a notable case in which increased trade has augmented food supplies in the face of a significant environmental constraint i. Conditions for food production are generally favorable in Latin America, where some countries, notably Brazil and Argentina, are major exporters of products like fruits, vegetables, wheat, and meat. Of course, the positive food situation in these three regions should not obscure the fact of considerable inter-country variation.

Cambodia, Peru, and Sudan, for example, have populations with very low per capita supplies of calories and protein.

relationship between population growth and food supply

And, as in East Asia, there are significant numbers of poor, undernourished people in each of these regions. South Asia —Significant Problems The food situation in South Asia is significantly worse than in the regions discussed above.

The FAO estimates that India alone contains about one quarter of all the world's undernourished people; in the years to its average calorie supply was estimated at only 2, per person per day.

A particular problem of the South Asian diet is its lack of high quality protein due, in part, to widespread vegetarianism. It is uncertain whether the nutritional content of the Indian diet has improved much during recent decades, despite significant increases in average incomes and little change in the real price of food. What has happened is that people have diversified the foods they consume, purchasing more fruits, vegetables, and milk, but reducing their consumption of legumes, which are nutritionally rather valuable.

Food production in South Asia has benefited from high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice, but there has been little change in the cultivation of traditional coarse cereals.

Consequently, the per capita availability of these latter food crops, which tend to be more nutritious, has fallen. The nutritional status of South Asia's population is generally dismal.

In India, for example, nearly half of all children under age three are estimated to be underweight, and a similar proportion of adult women are anemic. However, such health and nutritional problems are often not seen as problematic by the people themselves: Virtually all Indian households report that they have "two square meals a day. South Asia's population could well increase by million in the first half of the twenty-first century. Average levels of food consumption may well rise, but this demographic growth, and recent trends in food demand and production, do not augur well for a major decrease in the total number of under-nourished people.

Sub-Saharan Africa —Widespread Undernourishment, Grim Prognosis In major world regions the food situation is probably grimmest in sub-Saharan Africa, where FAO estimates that in the period from to about one-third of the total population was undernourished.

[World population growth and the food supply].

The food crisis equation The food crisis equation has three main components. First, life-styles, incomes and social organization determine levels of consumption. Second, the technologies in use determine both the extent to which human activities damage or sustain the environment and the amount of waste associated with a given level of consumption. Poverty may prevent the adoption of more appropriate technologies that could halt or slow down environmental degradation.

These two factors determine the impact on individuals. Inequality enters as a third factor when, for example, most land is in large holdings and the poor are forced to live on smallholdings or in marginal areas.

A fourth factor, population, acts as the multiplier that determines the total impact. Population is always part of the equation. For any given type of technology, level of consumption or waste and poverty or inequality, the more people there are, the greater the impact on the environment is and, in turn, the greater the impact on food production capacity will be.

Land fragmentation affects food production and is a direct result of rapid population growth in many poor countries. Often landholdings which are too small to provide a tolerable livelihood have been turned into part-time farms, with some household members usually the women and children staying at home to tend crops while others often the men migrate in search of wage employment. Alternatively, land is sold to wealthier landowners, making land distribution more uneven and adding to the creation of a large pool of landless labourers.

In addition, rapid population growth can lead to inappropriate farming practices that impoverish and erode the soil; reduce vegetation; over-use and improperly use agrochemicals; and frustrate water resource management. The result of such practices is severe land degradation.

relationship between population growth and food supply

A way ahead Population pressures continue to tip the balance against proper land and water management in many developing countries. While agricultural production is critical for any form of sustainable future, focusing on the agricultural sector alone without regard for other important factors which influence food production is certainly not the way to tackle the problems. Population programmes must be integrated into overall development objectives and be linked to other resource issues.

In order for hard-pressed developing countries to come to grips with falling per caput food production and resource degradation, they need strategic plans that incorporate population concerns such as population growth, distribution and rural-urban migration patterns.

Wherever possible, community development strategies which integrate essential social services as well as production resources should be encouraged. Sustainable development strategies which combat soil erosion and impoverishment, deforestation, falling agricultural output, and poor water management should also be implemented, as should rural agricultural extension schemes which provide credit, seeds, fertilizers and advice to poorer farmers, regardless of whether they are men or women.

Finally, support must be given to research on the integration of traditional and emerging technologies for food production.

Given the current levels of population and likely trends, it is imperative to anticipate future needs. At the same time, improved resource management would go a long way toward increasing crop yields, preventing land degradation in the first place and providing sustainable livelihoods for millions of rural poor.

The management of natural resources will require an equal commitment to the development of human resources: National population programmes should include comprehensive and accessible maternal and child health care programmes and family planning services in order to reduce the size of families and improve the health and well-being of the entire community.

relationship between population growth and food supply

With such efforts, there is a chance of increasing food production while protecting the environment and easing the burdens of the rural poor. The time and energy required of women for cultivation and harvesting, food processing and preparation as well as the fetching of fuel and water rarely figure in national labour statistics.

Their central place in resource use and crop production has yet to be recognized by most governments. Women rarely participate other than in rather peripheral ways in shaping their countries' economic and social policies.

Successful policies will secure women's involvement from the outset and will also ensure that development does not merely mean additional burdens for women. By formally recognizing women's pivotal role, governments will be taking a big step toward safeguarding food production.