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Poverty, hunger and population policy: linking Cairo with Johannesburg

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Attitudes to population policy taken by major international institutions display a lack of symmetry. Population-based institutions forcefully set out the effects of population on development and human welfare. In contrast, institutions and lobbies concerned with hunger, poverty and environment, brought together at the 2003 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, treat population growth as a given, independent, variable. This paper gives a land resources viewpoint. It includes a case study of Malawi and cross-country statistical comparisons. Official estimates of the extent of spare land, cultivable but not presently cultivated, are challenged. It is concluded that in low-income, food-deficit countries population increase has reduced, in some areas nullified, advances in agricultural development. Following the 1994 UN Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, a set of ethically acceptable measures for reducing population growth received general acceptance. All concerned with poverty, hunger and environment should follow the policy road from Cairo to Johannesburg. If greater efforts are not made to reduce rates of population increase, the targets of the Millennium declaration will not be met, and the suffering which these cause will continue. Statements about agriculture, food security, poverty and sustainability should recognize that population is not an external variable but an integral part of development.

Keywords: Malawi; hunger; population growth; population policy; poverty; sustainable development

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ

Publication date: 2005-03-01

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