Population People

Posted December 1996

Rome, Italy
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 concerns.

Background papers

"Food Requirements and Population Growth"
by Philippe Collomb
Director, CICRED
Paris, France

"Population Pressure and the Food Supply System in the Developing World"
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 social groups.

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 and analysis.

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)
Dakar, Senegal


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.

Discussion highlights

(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 of Africa.

(iv) The weakness of the public sector in many countries constitutes an obstacle to effective policies and programmes in the areas of both population and agriculture.

(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 be developed.

(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
Harare, 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 interventions.

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.

Discussion highlights

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 poverty.

(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 Considerations

Ms. Josie Zaini
Regional Director
Consumers International
Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
Penang Malaysia


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.

(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, June 1992).

(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 and sanitation.

(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 and policies.

(vi) Maintain gender equality in all spheres of global and national plans, policies and programmes, including the testing for HIV/AIDS.

Discussion highlights

(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 inputs.


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:

Discussion highlights

(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:
  1. Livestock:
  2. There is greater diversification in crop cultivation with much more emphasis on:

Discussion highlights

(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 food security.

(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 migration.

(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 option.

(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:

Discussion highlights

(i) Empowerment of rural areas through the creation of labour and employment opportunities that are rural based and environmentally friendly, promote food production.

(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 development.


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.

Discussion highlights

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 security.

(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 issues.

(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.

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