Posted December 1996
3-5 July 1996
FAO/UNFPA Expert Group Meeting on Food Production and Population Growth
In the next few decades world population growth will be the predominant
cause of increased global food demand. The likelihood is that food production
will be raised broadly in line with this increase in demand - but with significant
agricultural, economic and environmental costs. The situation in parts of
sub-Saharan Africa is of particular concern. However, strategies do exist
which can reduce the volume of future population growth - especially in
the longer run. These strategies include programmes to raise levels of education,
particularly for women and girls, and improve access to reproductive health,
including family planning, which also contribute to facilitating the achievement
of food security and food production objectives.
The meeting on Food Production and Population Growth which was held in Rome
from 3 to 5 July 1996, was jointly organized by FAO and UNFPA. Its objectives
were (i) to discuss and elaborate the issues raised in two background papers
- "Food Requirements and Population Growth" and "Population
Pressure and the Food Supply System in the Developing World" and
(ii) propose amendments to the draft of a policy statement Towards Universal
Food Security in order to strengthen its treatment of relevant population
"Food Requirements and Population Growth"
by Philippe Collomb
"Population Pressure and the Food Supply System in the Developing
by John Bongaarts
Vice-President, Research Division
The Population Council
New York, USA
The first presentation stressed regional contrasts in the current global
food situation (the progress made in Asia and Latin America vs. the difficulties
of Africa) as well as in long-term prospects. During the next 50 years,
population growth will determine large increases in plant-derived energy
requirements (a doubling in developing countries as a whole and a trebling
in tropical Africa); eliminating chronic malnutrition will require another
40 percent increase in tropical Africa (three to four times as much as in
other developing regions); reaching well-balanced diets will require another
20 to 25 percent increase in all the regions. On the whole Africa will need
to multiply its energy supply by five against two for other regions.
The second presentation assessed the respective contributions of land extension,
cropping intensity, yields, trade, and changes in the structure of production,
in the growth of food supply during the 1960s, '70s and '80s. It showed
how the combination of factors of growth had varied among countries, in
particular between groups of countries differentiated by population density.
It then examined how all those factors could contribute to meet projected
increases in food demand to the year 2050, excluding persistent global shortages
but pointing to problems in the densest and poorest countries, to undernutrition
and distributional issues, and to problems arising from the degradation
of environmental resources.
Points raised during the general discussion:
Population projections. While the medium variant of the UN global
population projections could materialize through various combinations of
country outcomes that are individually closer to the high or low variants,
the possibility of the latter variants materializing is much more limited
because they require a great homogeneity among country outcomes. This weakens
the relevance of scenarios based on the extreme variants (although global
factors could conceivably tend to operate uniformally in one direction).
More extensive analyses based on the low variant scenario would be valuable,
however, since implementation of policies in line with the ICPD Programme
of Action would help to attain the low population growth pattern.
Horizon 2050. On the one hand, the value of very long-term perspectives
is reduced by the inherent uncertainty of parameters as the period stretches
further and further into the future. On the other hand, these long range
projection exercises have exploratory value because: (a) the population
of the world, and of certain countries in particular, is sure to continue
to grow for a long time; (b) a serious examination of the sustainability
issue requires such a long-term perspective; and (c) such studies are useful
as a framework for medium-term research, including economic projections.
Of course, in-depth analysis of past trends provides indispensable groundwork
for long-term scenarios.
Endogeneity of demographic variables. Negative per capita food trends
might lead us to question standard assumptions of mortality decline, but
it is not clear how such matters should be handled because the interrelationships
between food consumption and mortality are complex.
Urbanization. Besides population growth, urbanization is important
because it modifies activity patterns, food tastes and nutritional needs,
and may negatively affect the health of the population, especially of underprivileged
Sub-Saharan Africa. The region has large and specific needs both
in terms of population policies and agricultural policies. The disappointing
performance in terms of per caput food availability in this region is not
only due to rapid population growth and difficult agro-climatic conditions,
but also due to strife and insecurity, as well as to the neglect of the
needs of women, who are the main food providers in the region. Tackling
these issues requires greater understanding based on disaggregated data
Population growth. The scale of future world population growth can
be reduced through policies which: (a) reduce the volume of unwanted births;
(b) increase female education; and (c) increase inter-generational spacing
through higher age at marriage and age at first birth.
Presentation 1: Population size and growth
Professor Aderanti Adepoju
African Institute for Economic Development and Planning
Population, Human Resources and Development in Africa (IDEP)
The presentation focused on the African continent as a case study, with
particular reference to sub-Saharan Africa. It highlighted the region's
heterogeneity in its demographic behaviour and in its food requirements
and consumption patterns. Africa has the highest population and urban growth
rates in the world. It has a young population, that has great growth momentum
- with serious implications for food requirements and consumption patterns.
The region has failed to reduce its high fertility largely because of low
use of contraceptives, though a large unmet need for contraception certainly
exists. Infant, child and maternal mortality rates are still unacceptably
high and are being worsened by the HIV/AIDS problem.
Teenage pregnancy, low age at marriage and childbearing, reduction in the
gains made in infant mortality, very low contraceptive usage, high increase
of urbanization, widespread poverty, conflicts and resulting refugees, migration
and growth of mega-cities, are all identified as requiring urgent policy
and programme actions, including policies to reduce fertility and enhance
the chances for improved food production and consumption.
Future policies aimed at moderating fertility and population growth will
essentially depend inter alia on: education for the girl-child, empowerment
of women and access to reproductive health and family planning for all,
reduction in infant and maternal mortality, meeting the basic needs of people,
improving public services, and the pursuit of stability and peace. The implementation
of the ICPD recommendations and the integration of population and agricultural
policies in a synergystic way, are very important for achieving food security
and slowing population growth. Failure to act is likely to compound already
problematic population conditions and exacerbate the food situation.
(i) The role of breastfeeding, the use of traditional methods of family
planning, and the need to involve men in family planning, were all stressed
as important factors in successful population programmes.
(ii) The issue of refugees and displaced persons deserves specific policies
and programmes, where necessary.
(iii) Projections of future trends in both population growth and food requirements
and consumption, should be based on different scenarios and there is an
urgent need to develop appropriate scenarios addressing the specific problems
(iv) The weakness of the public sector in many countries constitutes an
obstacle to effective policies and programmes in the areas of both population
(v) It was emphasized that increasing the general level of education together
with specialized population and agricultural education efforts are necessary
in order to increase the effectiveness of population programmes.
(vi) The issues of urban and peri-urban agriculture as well as those of
environmental degradation were identified as being important, but as needing
more research in order to reach sound conclusions on which programmes can
(vii) Improving the status of women was considered essential, in its own
right, and in view of the pivotal role of women in matters of both population
and food production.
(viii) Analysis of successful experiences in the area of population policy
and programmes in Africa showed that certain preconditions had to be met
to ensure success - such as strong and continuing political commitment;
social stability; well planned population, health, education and family
planning programmes, as well as improved quality of life.
Agricultural and rural development programmes have in the past essentially
concentrated on the supply side. Considering that population growth is the
principal claimant of any gains in food supplies, adequately catering to
people's needs and improving diets throughout the world requires that full
attention is also paid to the demand side of the world food balance equation.
Presentation 2: Nutrition
(Dr.) Ms. Lilian Marovatsanga
Institute of Food, Nutrition and Family Sciences
University of Zimbabwe
Present estimates show that nearly 800 million people have insufficient
access to food to meet their basic needs. A large number of child deaths
are attributable to the potentiating effects of malnutrition in infectious
disease. 40% of the world's entire population suffer from micronutrient
malnutrition. 2 billion have iron deficiency, 40 million are vitamin A deficient
and one billion are at risk of iodine deficiency disorders; changes in lifestyles
and diets are resulting in increased problems of obesity and chronic diseases.
One of the most affected areas in terms of malnutrition is Africa, where
projections of underfed populations will reach 300 million by the year 2010.
The basic reason of the deteriorating situation is failure to develop. Africa's
population is growing faster than food production, and the proportion of
"food insecure" people is by far the highest in the world.
Challenges and responses
Challenges include: high population growth rates; access to food; quality
of foods; undernutrition; overnutrition; micronutrient deficiencies; AIDS
and malnutrition; infant mortality/low birth weights; women's status and
caring capacity; access to health services, refugees and migrant labour.
Responses include: nutrition education, communication and training; and
the incorporation of nutrition objectives into population and agricultural
policies in a multisectoral approach.
Points raised during the discussion
Malnutrition. Access to food will have to be taken into account, bearing
in mind that infant mortality in many countries has dropped as a result
of nutritional and epidemiological changes. Criteria and indicators used
in the nutrition debate are not universally acceptable. Especially in developing
countries there is a lack of reliable epidemiological data, which indicate
that a wider collection of relevant information on protein and energy requirements
for specifically targeted population groups is required. Similarly, it is
extremely difficult to make universally acceptable recommendations on nutritional
requirements for a relatively distant future in 2050.
Education and information. Education and access to information about
nutritional requirements is needed and should be specifically targeted at
certain population groups. In developing countries malnutrition is a vicious
circle which depends on a variety of factors. This vicious circle can only
be overcome if a majority of people learn about the appropriateness and
adequacy of their food intake/diet. Unless people have access to and appropriate
knowledge about their specific nutritional requirements the problems of
malnutrition will persist. But obesity too is a significant and growing
problem in some countries.
Sectoral policies. A blend of sectoral policies can achieve an improvement
of the nutritional status in a given country which can be even more effective
than direct nutritional interventions. The nutritional gains stemming from
China's liberalization of its agricultural sector was mentioned as a case
in point. In this connection it was especially mentioned that agricultural
policies can have an impact on the mortality and morbidity of the overall
population of a given country, especially if the production and promotion
of healthy food is envisaged. In the case of meat production, for instance,
an overproduction of meat can result in health problems.
The socio-cultural dimension of nutrition. Limited access to food
often results in gender disparities, leaving the smallest share of food
to the girl child and women. Severe malnutrition among pregnant women will
eventually have an effect on the unborn child. Also, women often suffer
from severe anaemia and vitamin E deficiency by the time they reach menopause.
Food requirements for disadvantaged groups. Issues such as the nutritional
problems of migrant workers and breast-feeding in the presence of HIV/AIDS,
proved to be controversial. While there was some agreement that adequate
nutrition had to be provided to disadvantaged groups and that in the case
of migrant workers the receiving countries had a responsibility to provide
access to food, there was less agreement whether it was always realistic
to ask for government action in view of the fact that in developing countries
access to food was sometimes a general problem. Solutions could, however,
sometimes be seen in nutrition education for specific groups, including
migrant workers. Since different people require different nutritional advice,
the need for continuous monitoring of nutritional requirements is apparent.
In this respect, the Plan of Action adopted by the International Conference
on Nutrition in 1992 requires more effective implementation.
Household resource management is essential for household food security.
Nutrition issues should constitute an integral part of agriculture, population,
education and health policies. Monitoring of the nutritional status of vulnerable
groups in particular, is required to improve the quality of development
Presentation 3: Socio-economic Issues - Poverty and Food Security
Mr. Vaclav Smil
Professor, Department of Geography
University of Manitoba
The presentation challenged the common understanding about the definition
and significance of poverty and food security. It was argued that there
are several common biases with regard to both these concepts. World opinion
focuses on sub-Saharan Africa - giving severe problems in other parts of
the world less attention. Definitional problems of poverty and food security
complicate a constructive understanding of very complex syndromes.
The most challenging matter is the question of nutritional needs. The greatest
weakness of the standard measurement of total per capita energy intake is
that it ignores a surprisingly large range of variation in individual metabolism
and intake requirements.
Inform the public and the policy makers better about the complexities of
nutritional requirements; work towards setting up more realistic methods
of assessing nutritional deficiencies of populations; promote the analysis
of poverty - food security issues within a wider socio-economic context
(i.e. including considerations ranging from the value of the free press
in reporting food deficiencies to the linkages between poverty and population
growth); understand better the changing nature of food security in the much
more interdependent world of the coming generation.
There was a general consensus that the accepted criteria utilized to gauge
these dimensions do not take access to food at the micro level into consideration.
Also, government policies do not take the income distribution within the
country into account, assuming that rising incomes or declining food prices
automatically improve levels of nutrition.
(i) The crucial issues regarding long-term perspectives are related to the
parameters used to measure the number of people stricken with poverty, the
determinants of food security and poverty, and what can be done about them.
The criteria are too often based on income at the national level which is
then compared at an international level. They do not take into account that
income is not evenly distributed within a given country. The problem seems
to be that we do not have clear parameters to measure food security and
(ii) It is evident that illiteracy and lack of social services contribute
to rural poverty and food/nutrition insecurity. At the same time, poor populations
show remarkable diversity in developing survival strategies. An effective
way for governments to address poverty is to provide basic services and
focus their agricultural policies on nutritionally relevant food crops.
(iii) The relationship between food security and poverty seems to be fairly
obvious, whereas the relationship between the two and population growth
rates is less clear. Clarification on the population dimension to both poverty
and food security is therefore required.
(iv) Food production is not identical with nutrition. Nutrition is more
related with the problem of access to food, depending, in the case of urban
populations, on their available income, education and health. For planning
purposes, reliable knowledge on the relationship between income distribution
and poverty is necessary, taking into account that with current economic
trends, income distribution is often getting worse.
(v) Global projections on poverty and food security rely on appropriate
measurements. There is a need for countries and agencies to engage in continuous
monitoring of the indicators of poverty and food security at the country
level. Agencies should also monitor the issues at regional and international
levels. Without monitoring it is impossible to determine whether people
are faced with famines, malnutrition, high infant mortality, etc.
(vi) There is a linkage between government social sector programmes in the
fields of education, sanitation and clean water, health, including reproductive
health and family planning, poverty alleviation and food security. Government
interventions can contribute to the elimination of malnutrition. Government
food security policies should take into account farmers' interests as well
as international trade transactions.
(vii) Besides a need for theoretical analysis to relate rapid population
growth to poverty, there is also a need to improve the empirical evidence
on these relations. FAO's experience seems to indicate that farm family
size more or less correlates with farm income.
Population, poverty and food security at macro and micro levels are intrinsically
interrelated. Appropriate mechanisms for measuring and continuously monitoring
these issues need to be developed. This will enable policy measures to pay
special attention to vulnerable groups, to ensure their access to food and
basic social services, particularly education and health, including reproductive
health and family planning.
Presentation 4: Gender Issues in Population Growth and Food Security
Ms. Josie Zaini
Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
Gender is critically related to population dynamics, food security and environmental
protection. Food viewed from a gender perspective is not merely an item
for consumption, but more importantly a source of livelihood, particularly
for many households in developing countries. Food security emphasizes the
preservation of life and the building of self-sufficiency. Therefore, women
in their role as food producers, mothers, income earners and consumers are
deeply affected by changes in policies and programmes in agriculture (including
food security) and population.
(i) Decline in agriculture has a negative impact on both the status and
decision-making capability of women:
(ii) Globalization of trade, creation of free trade zones, devaluation and
structural adjustment programmes have negative impacts on women, eroding
their purchasing power and capacity for ensuring food security and reducing
their capacity to afford health and social services.
- It alters their key role as decision-makers in agriculture and weakens
their initiatives in maintaining food security and adequate nutrition for
their household's well-being.
- Changing land patterns and rapid industrialization facilitate rural-urban
migration and can create increased numbers of female-headed households with
limited access to land, income, health facilities, and ultimately, food
- Degradation of eco-systems on which women depend for agricultural activities,
often leaves women handicapped in the provision of adequate nutrition for
their households and limits their creativity to vary diet.
- Urban squatter living may also undermine women's access to affordable
health and social services.
- Promotion of monoculture and cash crop production can lead to the diminution
of biodiversity, reduced availability of food, and can severely affect women's
health and their capacity to provide their families with adequate food.
(iii) Promotion of sustainable development strongly depends on the guaranteeing
of women's rights which are linked to other rights, including reproductive
rights, accessibility to resources and equality in decision-making.
(i) Institute national audit systems on biodiversity as recommended by the
Biodiversity Convention to protect flora and fauna and promote the availability
of food for human consumption and health (UNEP: Convention on Biological
Diversity, Environmental Law and Institutions Programme Activity Centre,
(ii) Implement policies promoting household self-sufficiency in order to
ensure food security.
(iii) Improve women's access through government's social sector intervention
to non-nutritional entitlements such as to health, education, clean water
(iv) Provide affordable and gender friendly technologies to safeguard the
health of women and moderate fertility.
(v) Adopt FAO integrated approach to agricultural and population programmes
(vi) Maintain gender equality in all spheres of global and national plans,
policies and programmes, including the testing for HIV/AIDS.
(i) The non-empowerment and non-improvement in the status of women are major
constraints in attaining food security and fertility reduction.
(ii) Women are not only significant in agriculture but are equally important
in providing health care for themselves and their households.
(iii) Disaggregation of data should include gender and other demographic
factors such as age, etc.
(iv) Promote functional education for the benefit of women in order to facilitate
their full participation in all aspects of development.
(v) The development of innovative methodologies and indicators to show the
situation of women and their role in population and agricultural activities
for policy outputs towards the empowerment of women as provided by ICPD
and the Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW Beijing).
(vi) Women's increased role in decision-making will have positive impact
on food security, population growth and overall sustainable development.
Women play a crucial role in managing household food security and in sustaining
family nutrition, yet their responsibilities are not properly reflected
in statistics and are insufficiently taken into consideration in development
processes. For men and women to equitably share household, parental and
production responsibilities, gender concerns need to be specifically mainstreamed
in policies and programmes related to population and food security.
Presentation 5: Crop-based Food Production
Dr. Mangala Rai
Assistant Director General, Policy and Perspective Planning
Indian Council of Agricultural Research
New Delhi, India
The presentation brought out the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities
for future global food production. It indicated technological possibilities
for an increase in agricultural productivity and production, and possibilities
of managing changes effectively, provided concerted efforts are made to
improve agricultural research, and implement research results.
Increasing population may lead to degradation of natural resources, climate
change, increasing biotic pressures, decreasing use efficiency of inputs.
These changes are worsened by limited human resources for technology generation
and extension strategy development. Future challenges include limited availability
of agro-based industries proximate to areas of production, poor marketing
facilities for agricultural products, and limited availability of production
Future growth of agricultural production will depend on accelerated investment
in agricultural research and development, capital formation in the agricultural
sector, minimising post harvest losses, crop diversification, cutting edge
technologies, effective technology transfer, pragmatic land-use planning,
greater attention to Integrated Pest Management (IPM), organic farming,
residue recycling, product development of value addition, germplasm maintenance
and water conservation. There must also be a balancing of prices between
input and output, producer and consumer.
The enhancement of productivity and profitability in a sustainable way was
considered imperative. This will call for:
- enhanced investment in Research and Development;
- a multi-sectoral approach in a holistic manner;
- encouragement of capital formation in agriculture;
- development of agro-based industries in the production area;
- correction of the input-output situation;
- improvement of marketing facilities.
(i) The crucial role of forestry for sustainable development was highlighted.
Forests provide goods and services to meet many basic needs, for example:
fibre, shelter, fuel and food. Forestry also contributes to food security
and improved nutrition. In addition, forests have global importance in protecting
the environment. Policies and strategies for food security and nutrition
should fully consider forestry's contribution.
(ii) The issue of free market economies and concerns about rising food prices
and the resulting consequences for food security were addressed.
(iii) Effects of increased food production on the global climate and the
environment are already taking place. Increases in CO2 output result in
enhanced plant growth, but also climate changes result in reductions of
growth through reduced water availability and disturbances of ecosystems.
These changes have to be taken into account.
(iv) The promotion of indigenous crops needs to be linked to considerations
of consumer acceptability. The traditional food chain in its totality requires
careful assessment in order to encourage peoples' appreciation of local
products. Indigenous knowledge needs to be exploited too.
There is a need to enhance productivity and sustainability of food production
through increased investment in research and development and in human resources,
capital formation, appropriate institutional and multisectoral approaches,
with particular attention to the development of quality seed and hybrids.
Presentation 6: The Role of Livestock in Food Production
Presenter Mr. Thomas Preston
Consultant in Sustainable Livestock-based Agricultural Development
University of Agriculture and Forestry
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
There is no disagreement about the increasing demand for food in 2050. The
debate is about the way to satisfy this demand. Should it be through a global
increase of total food supplies via a new `biotechnology-based' green revolution
(or an extension of the previous one to areas where it was not previously
applied) or are there alternatives? Considering that (i) rates of increase
in food production and in resource availability (e.g. proportion of arable
land) are falling behind rates of increase of population; and (ii) it is
the risk-prone lands (rain-fed and mountainous areas) where future expansion
must come from (and where cereal grain production is not appropriate), the
prospects of meeting the future food demands of the rising population by
increasing the area cultivated and the yield are extremely poor.
An alternative approach to meeting food demand is to change the way basic
foodstuffs (human staples) are used. Currently over 40% of cereal grain
is fed to livestock (more than 70% in industrial countries). This has been
a response to rising purchasing power reflected in a desire for greater
diet diversity especially in animal products.
(i) Must the increased demand for livestock products be met by feeding
them grain? Not necessarily! More efficient use of crop residues is
one way, e.g. 12 million tonnes of straw are presently used to fatten
more than one million cattle in China. There are alternative feeds especially
in tropical regions. Many of these are from very high yielding crops which
are photosynthetically more efficient than cereals, but of lower nutrient
density, e.g. sugar cane, multi-purpose trees and water plants. Their efficient
use favours animals of lower genetic potential creating opportunities for
indigenous breeds leading to enhanced biodiversity.
(ii) What is the true role of livestock in a policy of sustainable use
of natural resources? The lessons from the past 20 years are highly
relevant with regard to this issue. In industrial countries livestock production
is largely divorced from crop production, with the result that problems
of pollution of air (methane from excreta) and of soil and water (N and
P mainly) are serious causes of concern, followed by lack of consumer confidence
in quality (wholesomeness) of products from `factory' animal farming.
The world needs a new set of guidelines for agriculture in which:
- Do not compete with people for food.
- Are fully integrated into the farming system, which means they are
fed mainly with farm-produced resources and their excreta is returned to
the crops in a way that minimises methane production (by passing the excreta
through a biodigester).
- Produce food, fuel, fertilizer and power.
- There is greater diversification in crop cultivation with much more
- Tree crops in multi-strata systems (agroforestry)
- Efficient capture of solar energy
- Crops which fractionate easily into multi-end use components for food,
feed, fuel, fibre and leaf litter (as source of soil organic matter).
(i) The discussion focused on the need for an ecological approach, especially
in view of inappropriate business farm approaches. Traditional farming transfers
the collective wisdom and creates an environment in which children can grow
up and develop. There is need for research to preserve traditional values
and prevent the further destruction of local heritage.
(ii) The value of traditional family farming is acknowledged. However, to
multiply food production to feed the growing population, modern agriculture
is the only answer. The challenge is to reach an appropriate mix of the
two systems relating appropriate modern agriculture with traditional family
farming. In view of population growth it is clear that agricultural production
cannot be business as usual. Agrobusiness has managed to keep food prices
low mainly due to their operations across borders. Small farmers cannot
compete in this scenario. It is the responsibility of governments to protect
the interest of local small farmers.
(iii) The decline in per capita grain output was not only caused by the
collapse of the USSR, but also because large areas of land were taken out
of cereal cultivation in the USA, EU and Argentina. Cereal harvest variability
is increasing in both North America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Recent price
rises for cereals on world markets are short-term phenomena, obviously related
to the current low level of world cereal stocks. Liberalization of trade
will benefit mainly European and North American farmers. Tropical agriculture
may find things hard because it will not be operating on a level playing
field. Increases in nitrogen inputs and greatly increased grain transfers
around the world will be necessary to feed the world's growing population.
(iv) In view of global urbanization trends we must face the reality that
the production of food for a growing number of large cities cannot be accomplished
by small farmers.
(v) The trend of global urbanization poses the problem of population distribution.
Agricultural policies can be seen as an instrument for population distribution.
(vi) There is a need to stimulate people to stay in rural areas and to reduce
rural fertility. Modern communication systems could provide incentives for
rural people to remain in their villages.
Livestock are a key component of sustainable farming systems. They should
be in equilibrium with land, population and other natural resources, and
should contribute to, and not compete with, people's needs.
Presentation 7: Migration and Urbanization: Linkages to Food Security
and Population Growth
Presenter Mr. Azfar Khan
TSS Specialist on Migration, Population Distribution and Urbanization
International Labour Organization
Geneva 22, Switzerland
The process of population redistribution through migration and urbanization
is inevitable. Projections to 2015 show a continuing increase in the number
and development of urban centres in the developing countries. Concerns about
these developments gain impetus from high population growth rates and imbalances
in industrialization policies. Though there is no cause for alarm, there
is concern over implications of unplanned urban growth and unrestricted
out-migration for rural development, food security, population growth, and
management of urban centres.
(i) Industrialization development policies guided by the principle of self-regulating
market forces concentrate economic operations and activities in cities,
inviting labour migration and creating peri-urban squatter slums, over-stretched
social facilities, and environmental degradation.
(ii) Governments, often financially strapped, are easily tempted to provide
urban areas with better infrastructure, to the detriment of rural areas
where food production takes place.
(iii) Many major investments occur in the urban areas. This implies faster
growth of employment opportunities which draw the young and the unemployed
away from rural areas, with serious implications for both rural and urban
(iv) Rural to urban migrants tend to be young, which implies that often
older people in rural areas are denied the vitality of the young who produce
much of the food.
(v) Migrants' augmentation of the urban labour force often depresses wages
and the costs of production, facilitates capital accumulation and the creation
of a wide range of employment opportunities which act as pull factors for
(vi) State policies for development often inadvertently induce deteriorating
`terms of trade' in rural areas, which frustrate capital accumulation, make
agricultural activity unattractive, and townward migration an attractive
(vii) There is differential effect of out-migration from rural areas. Areas
which produce cash crops are often supported by state policy. But areas
which produce subsistence crops are relatively neglected and may become
major sources of out-migration.
(viii) There is a constellation of factors which jointly induce migration.
They include the physical make-up of the areas, the institutional framework
of landholding, land tenure, credit availability for farmers and rates of
rural population growth.
(i) Factors which influence migration are interrelated and cannot be treated
in isolation. Therefore, integrated policies should be formulated to deal
with the issues.
(ii) Major factors which require attention are:
- The physical make-up of land. This is important because its quality
and ecology will determine what agricultural activities are undertaken.
- Existing institutional frameworks need to be examined to assess their
suitability and provision of support for farmers.
(i) Empowerment of rural areas through the creation of labour and employment
opportunities that are rural based and environmentally friendly, promote
(ii) Increased research on migration, especially on forced and seasonal
migration is needed.
(iii) Rural-urban migration is not always negative. It has advantages and
disadvantages and these are significant regional variations.
(iv) The carrying capacity of areas should be considered.
(v) Investment in communication is needed in order to empower rural areas
and strengthen their productive capacity.
(vi) Rural areas are badly affected by urban-biased development policies.
They continue to experience high fertility and poverty.
(vii) Peri-urban areas require improved provision of basic services in order
to lessen human susceptibility to diseases.
(viii) There is a need to provide data for projections of international
migration which may become an important issue in the future.
(ix) Despite urbanization in many rural areas, populations are still growing
and will continue to do so into the next century. It is therefore important
to analyze the consequences for future food security.
(x) Improvements in nutrition should be seen as investment in human capital.
Population redistribution through migration and urbanization is an inevitable
structural consequence of development. Rural out-migration is rooted in
high population growth, coupled with lack of socio-economic opportunities
in the rural areas of developing countries. Migration, nutrition, health
and food security are interrelated. Hence, investment in the rural areas
should enhance rural living conditions, decrease rural out-migration, reduce
fertility and enhance food production, preservation and distribution.
Presentation 8: Rural Institutions
Presenter Dr. Rodolfo Tuirán
General Director of Population Programs
National Population Council
Col. Del Valle, Mexico
The presentation focused on the identification and discussion of major structural
and institutional changes in rural areas, using the example of Latin America.
Rural institutions are currently undergoing widespread changes due to macro-level
economic transformations, which have important implications for regional
and local level populations. A brief summary of these changes would include
the following: the effects of structural adjustment on developing economies;
the feminization of poverty; the expansion of international capital and
commodity pricing; changing labour markets (including internal and international
migration); the development of international trading blocks (such as NAFTA,
EU, etc.); and advances in technological and communications infrastructure.
A number of crucial issues concerning population, poverty, and food security
have emerged in the past two decades because rural areas have often been
neglected in national development policies and programmes. Serious attention
to the special circumstances of rural producers, especially women, the land
poor and landless, will be necessary in order to provide balanced development,
assure political stability, and secure the food supply for the general population.
Moreover, a systemic and human-centred approach to national and international
development must be articulated and implemented in order to provide sustainable
The central importance of increasing agricultural productivity in the next
50 years is indisputable. However, a key issue is the extent to which
government and social institutions will be able to adapt to the rapid and
complex changes underway. This will require immediate strategic responses
and adaptations at multiple levels of civil society and government.
The discussion focused on analysis of the needs and special problems of
rural populations viewed in a systemic context, and on incorporating social,
demographic, ecological and political perspectives. A summary of major areas
of concern includes:
(i) Land tenure, access, and ownership. Improvements in land access
are essential in order to increase productivity and output, and assure food
(ii) Gender, credit and agriculture. Improvements in women's social
and legal rights are imperative, and have important implications for a variety
of concerns including the alleviation of poverty, family nutrition, population
issues, and increased agricultural productivity.
(iii) Migration. Intra and inter-national migration of rural populations
has major implications for the social, demographic, economic, political
and health concerns of sending and receiving areas.
(iv) Decline of social services due to structural adjustment. Increased
research on the effects of structural adjustment on rural populations will
be necessary in order to formulate ameliorative policies and programmes.
(v) Diffusion of appropriate and sustainable technologies. Training
and development in appropriate agricultural practices is essential to increase
productivity and long-term food security.
(vi) The role of NGOs and civil societies. Given the decline of social
services due to structural adjustment policies and related economic transformations,
the role of NGOs will be increasingly important to assist rural populations.
(vii) Development of multi-sectoral approaches. A systemic multidisciplinary
and multisectoral perspective is necessary to address complex rural development
(viii) Research on the special needs and problems of rural populations.
The magnitude of recent social, demographic, economic, and ecological changes
in rural areas requires in-depth multidisciplinary field research in order
to facilitate the development of appropriate programmes and policies.
Considering that land is at the centre of the production process, governments
should facilitate people's access to land and to complementary services
and incentives, with a specific focus on the development and use of appropriate
technologies. Mechanisms and processes which ensure the full participation
and adequate feedback of rural communities, civil society and NGOs should
also be put in place.