Population Growth and Agricultural Change in Africa: A 50-Year Assessment

Richard Bilsborrow, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Rosa Victoria Salinas, Universidad San Francisco de Quito

It is over 30 years since Higgins et al. (1982) assessed the linkages between population and food security in developing countries. With much new data available and grain prices rising, an updated assessment of trends in population and agriculture in the region experiencing the highest population growth seems timely. This paper provides a country-level overview of changes in population, land extensification, and land intensification in Africa over the past half century, with a view towards 2050. Countries are classified, according to the UN, into two groups, so-called Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Other Developing Countries (ODCs). Overall, the ODCs experienced more advances in land productivity than LDCs, but increasingly over time, less extensification, or expansion in the agricultural land area. The latter appears linked to their modest fertility declines compared to very little decline among LDCs, supporting Malthus. The paper closes with policy implications and notes data and other limitations.

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Presented in Session 201: Population, Agriculture, and Food Security