Population Growth and Agricultural Change in Africa

Population Growth and Agricultural Change in Africa

Population Growth and Agricultural Change in Africa

Population Growth and Agricultural Change in Africa


The question that drives the ten case studies of highland East Africa and Nigeria commissioned for this volume is whether population growth in densely settled areas of rural Africa has led to the intensification of agriculture. Using a "natural experiments" methodology, the authors explore changes in agricultural inputs and outputs, analyze the role that external productive forces have played in these changes, note the consequences of the changes (especially for the environment and standard of living), and speculate on the changes' implications. The volume is framed by chapters on theory, one that presents traditional thought on the relationship between population and agriculture and one that offers a synthesis that, while controversial, holds out real hope for African agriculture.


The question of population growth looms large in the future of Africa. the editors of Population Growth and Agricultural Change in Africa observe in their introductory chapter that the estimated population of 530 million people in 1989 will double by the year 2015. This increase will take place within a context of decreasing per capita food production over the last several decades. What does the future hold with these two trends in play? While noting that both technical and political causes explain decreasing productivity, the editors are more interested in understanding the processes that lead to intensification of agriculture, for it is by intensification that most increases in agricultural productivity will occur.

The contributors examine the relationship between population growth and agricultural intensification through a case study approach that is sensitive to historical data. Through an examination of different high- density populations in Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya, it is possible to see changes in technology and productivity over time and to isolate the conditions under which agricultural intensification follows population growth and is sustainable in the long term. in this approach the book offers concrete examples of positive relationships between population growth and agricultural intensification, examples with important implications for policy and land-use planning. It is encouraging to see that agricultural histories, especially those that capture processes of rapid population growth that imitate today's trends, can have a positive impact for planning to meet the future needs of African peoples.

The Center for African Studies sponsors the annual Carter Lecture Series, which are devoted to critical issues facing Africa today. It hosted and helped to sponsor the workshop/conference at which the papers in this volume were discussed and reviewed by the authors and several outside discussants. These papers address two of the most important and interrelated problems on the continent today.

The center is grateful for the administrative support provided by University of Florida Provost Andrew Sorensen. Thanks go as well to George Bedell and Walda Metcalf at the University Press of Florida . . .

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