Population dynamics, future food requirements and environmental impacts in sub-Saharan Africa

Barbara Boyle Torrey, Population Reference Bureau (PRB)

The inexorable growth in the Sub-Saharan African population means that agricultural land use will be potentially one of the biggest future human environmental impacts in Africa. Combining FAO’s estimates of current African harvests and the Institute of Medicine’s estimates of caloric requirements by age, gender and activity suggests that Africa today is growing enough crops (in terms of calories) to feed their populations today at healthy U.S. standards. However, the food is poorly distributed, and consequently 30 percent of the population is under nourished. In the next 40 years caloric requirements will increase more than the population because age structure changes more than offset urbanization trends. Demand for new agricultural land, however, will increase less than population if agricultural productivity increases to 80 percent of productivity on experimental farms. Well nourished populations and environmental sustainability are not incompatible in Africa if markets are improved and current agricultural land is maximized.

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Presented in Session 162: Population pressure, resource use and environmental degradation