Goran Hyden, Robert W. Kates, and B. L. Turner II
We began this endeavor by linking fact with speculation. The fact is that most of sub-Saharan Africa has skyrocketing population growth accompanied by rather slow or marginal growth in agriculture. As a result, per capita food production has been falling throughout much of the subcontinent, although the extent of this decline is unclear. Marginal environments, usually semiarid zones with major cycles of drought, have been invaded for cultivation or for intensified livestock production, in most cases leading to land degradation. Where these changes have been associated with warfare or drought, major food shortages and famines have been the consequence. The speculation was that population growth per se is not necessarily the cause of all of these problems; indeed, in many cases it may lead to their solution. As Boserup ( 1965) argues, population growth is a prerequisite both for agricultural growth, particularly through the intensification process, and, ultimately, for a shift from production for local consumption to a more diversified economy with an increase in the overall material standard of living. Demand, in this case primarily from population needs, drives agricultural and economic development ( Boserup 1981; also Hayami and Ruttan 1985).
We did not attempt to address empirically and in detail such far- ranging and complex linkages throughout the subcontinent. Our decision, therefore, was to concentrate on the first link--the relationship between population and agricultural growth--but to tackle it in such a way as to generate insights about the subsequent facets of the Boserup argument, emphasizing economic diversification and well-being. This was done by focusing on the relationship as it has been played out in select areas of the subcontinent with traditions of dense rural population and intensive agriculture. In this sense, our approach is that of the "natural experiment" in that we could make observations but could not control the varied influences on the relationship in question. Experts on these places and relationships were asked to make assessments of the