Population issues including demographic structure, health and migration are central to environmental sustainability, agricultural production and food security. A population inhabits a given geographical area and is characterized by a set of demographic specificities including sex and age structure, morbidity and mortality levels, family formation regime, fertility rates, and patterns of spatial mobility. These features are influenced by a large range of factors including environmental, socio-cultural, economic, institutional and political driving forces, and evolve over time, producing changes in population size and structure by age and sex.
The demographic features of rural populations and their evolution influence patterns of farming, trends in rural employment, patterns of poverty and food security, and the outcomes of agricultural and rural development strategies. As such, understanding population dynamics is key to designing effective and inclusive agricultural and rural development policies and programmes that sustainably improve the social and economic well-being of rural populations.
FAO’s Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division (ESW) analyses rural population issues with a particular focus on the impact on rural development, agriculture and livelihoods of health and diseases, migration and territorial population distribution, and population age structure with an emphasis on vulnerable youth and the rural ageing, in order to advise Member Countries, FAO units, partner and other development specialists on agricultural and rural development policies and programmes.
The Division also collects information about FAO’s and other institutions’ experiences in agriculture, forestry and fisheries that are relevant to population-related activities, and brings it to the attention of policy-makers, programme designers and other practitioners concerned with population, food security and rural development issues. This approach is in line with the recommendations of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development and the 1996 World Food Summit (WFS), both of which highlighted the importance of an interdisciplinary perspective on population and development issues.