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The impact of population growth on agriculture and natural resource management has been debated at least from the time of Reverend Thomas Malthus. Although the dismal predictions of Malthus regarding the inability of agricultural production to keep pace with population growth have not come to pass. The consequences of population growth on economic development nave attracted the attention of economists ever since Adam Smith wrote his Wealth of nations. Adam Smith wrote, “the annual labour of every nation is the fund which originally supply it with all the necessaries and conveniences of life”. In addition, there are serious and growing concerns about the impacts of rapid population growth on environment and natural resources including forests, land, water, biodiversity, and other resources. (M.L Jhingan 2007).
Consequently, the effect of population changes on agricultural development has attracted more attention recently, partly because of aspirations, plans and programmes for expanding national production and the increasingly pervasive pattern of rapid decline in death rates. It has been a point of debate for long time as to whether the relationship is positive or negative; whether the population growth deters or promotes development or vice-versa and whether the two can ultimately settle down at point of equilibrium.
Nigeria lies on the west coast of Africa between 4 and 14 degrees’ north latitude and between 2 and 15 degrees east stretching from the gulf of 423768 square kilometers coast in the south to the finger of the Sahara Desert in the north. Nigeria is topographically characterized by 5 major geographic divisions: low coastal zone along Gulf of Guinea; hills and low plateaus; Niger-Benue river valley; broad stepped plateau stretching to northern border with highest elevations over 1,200meters; mountainous zone along eastern border which includes country’s highest point (2,042 meters). The vegetation that results from these climatic differences consists of mangrove swamp forest in the Niger Delta and Sahel grassland in the north with a wide range of climatic, vegetation and soil conditions. Nigeria possesses potentials for a wide range of agricultural production. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, with an estimated population of 151.87 million as at 2009 (CBN, 2009). The population of Nigeria is predominantly rural with most people migrating to the urban areas in search of jobs and source of livelihood. Its domestic economy is dominated by agriculture, which accounts for about 42.05% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and two-third of the labour force. Agricultural production till date remains the mainstay of the Nigerian economy as greater proportions of the population depend on the agricultural sector for their livelihood, while the rural economy is still basically agricultural. It provides more food to the rapidly expanding population, increases the demand for industrial products and thus necessitating the expansion of other sectors; provides additional foreign exchange earnings for the import of capital goods for development through increased agricultural exports; provides productive employment and helps in improving the welfare of the rural people. The external sector is dominated by petroleum, which generates about 95% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings while agriculture contributes less than 5%. Trade imports are dominated by consumer goods. Nigeria is currently preoccupied with the challenge of diversifying the structure of it economy.
Over the years, statistics shows that the population of Nigeria has been rapidly increasing. In 1960, Nigeria total estimated population was 42.0 million, 1970 and 1980 it was 55.1 and 65.0 respectively. The total population of Nigeria in the 1991 census was 88.9 million, in 2004, the total estimated population was 132.602 million and as at 2009 the estimated population was 151.87 million at 2.75% growth rate. The agricultural output index growth rate dropped from7.4% in 2006 to 5.99% in 2009 (Source: CBN 2009). The aggregate agricultural output has been fluctuating. Nigeria has majorly depended on import to sustain the economy. Despite Nigeria being an agrarian economy, the largely subsistence agricultural sector has not kept up with rapid population growth, and Nigeria, once a large exporter, now imports food.
In recent times, one of the major issues in the world especially in third world countries has been the alarming rate of poverty, lack of proper education and food scarcity. In Nigeria, this has been a huge problem due to increased population with fewer resources. Therefore, the need to provide adequate food for the entire population becomes a huge concern to the entire populace. This grim condition was put forward early in the history of economics by Robert Thomas Malthus (Limits to growth,1766 - 1834) that population growth will always continue to be a problem due to the natural human reproductive urge which increases geometrically (1, 2, 4, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, etc.) in relation to food supply which only increases arithmetically (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, etc.) and thus could have a resultant starvation effect if left unchecked.
In recent times, this theory has been said to be criticized by other economists with many factors which Malthus did not consider when putting forward this theory (Gazulakhotia, 2011). This has been a subject of keen controversy as he was regarded as a pessimistic economist by others. These criticisms are based on his inability to relate his theories to the history of western countries as population has failed to grow as rapidly as he predicted in these areas and production as well has increased due to technology advancements. As a result of this, living standard of the people has increased tremendously instead of falling as he predicted in his theory (Gazulakhotia, 2011, revised edition 2012).
Secondly, (Ester Boserup, 1965) accused Malthus of basing his theory on the law of diminishing returns which is applied to agricultural production. But for the fact that he asserted that food production would not match with the high population, this has been falsified due to the increase in advanced technology and high capital investments in developed countries, Thus, Boserup proposes a "dynamic" relationship between arable and fallow land that changes in response to population density (Boserup 1965, page13,15& 20).
In contrast to the Malthusian idea of 'invention-pull' population growth, Boserup (1965) rather put forward an 'invention-push' agricultural change which makes it possible to substitute technological input like the use of fertilizers in agricultural production, better seeds for production of quality foods and the use of agricultural machineries to increase food production.
Thirdly, the Malthusian theory of population compared population growth with the increase in food production alone and as a result gave no proof of his assertion that population increased exactly in geometric progression. He taught that land was available in fixed quantity and therefore food production cannot increase more than population. He failed to put into proper account the different types of agricultural production and compare them with the increase in the total wealth of a country. This on the other hand does not show that population and food supply changes with these mathematical series. Scientists did not base their support for the populace just on food production from available lands, rather they industrialize themselves by nurturing other natural resources and accumulating man-made capital equipment (e.g. airplanes, factories, cars, tools, railways etc.) which they would use in other forms of production and in exchange for food from other countries through export trades. (Gazulakhotia, 2011).
Similarly, The Malthusian theory of population may apply to the developing world such as Africa and the Asian countries. For instance, India and China are at present in that unenviable position which Malthus feared. Grinding poverty, disease outbreak, famine, communal wars and discrimination, insufficient food supply and low standard of living. But for the fact that technology increased has helped in solving these problems especially in the area of food insecurity, these notwithstanding has been falsified by other scientists as Malthus based his theories only on the present life conditions as that time. As the society develops in size and quantity, the demands on resources increases in both intensity and density (Population & Environment 1994, Revise edition A.A Bartlett, 1997).
In these parts of the word, society goes through a rapid development to the extent where there are concerns regarding finiteness, (total usage) of resources. In many areas, population pressure is causing sub-division of fertile lands into smaller plots thereby intensifying land use as well as facilitating rural-urban migration. Similarly, marginal lands in some areas are also brought into production. One of the most socio-economic factors in soil and water conservation is undoubtedly the issue of land tenure. Great strides have been made since 1960s in adjusting land in many of the higher potential areas in Africa. In the drier areas, most of the land is still communally owned (Oyebola, 1970). Over the past years, a purely pastoral economy has a degree of dynamic equilibrium between the people, the livestock and the land etc., the fact that all land was common, it caused no essentials for stewardship. But with rising human and livestock numbers, coupled with a decline in grazing areas due to other forms of land use, the previous dynamic equilibrium has been tremendously destroyed and land degradation has become endemic in many areas. In Nigeria today, Natural and anthropogenic causative factors such as erosion and landslide, pollution from oil spill and other greenhouse gases over land and desert encroachment has led to the destruction and loss of several hectares of arable farmland(UNCSD,1997).
Annually, Anambra, Enugu, Ondo, and Imo states encounter a massive loss of arable farmland caused by erosion as a result of heavy precipitation. In lined with this, prolonged drought and the pressure of animals grazing on the land is on its daily increase in the northern deserts while in the Niger delta region, oil spill and severe land degradation daily pollutes and renders hectares of arable farmlands infertile and this contributes immensely to about 80% of loss of biological diversity. (UNU, 1996).
The rise in population has resulted to marginal rainfall areas being vulnerable to drought and more bared lands as a result of the decline in vegetative cover resulting from the intensive anthropogenic activities by humans, higher rates of animal grazing, deforestation for building and fuel needs, thereby exposing the soil to the ravages of wind and water erosion (UNFCCC, 2011).
Similarly, the demand for gathering of firewood has shifted on the increase as a result of high demand for fuel especially in the rural communities. As this is said to be a time consuming occupation, it has really affected the farmers input to crop production and thus has led to reduced agricultural practice (IEA.ORG).
Population growth in developing countries has caused a shift of population from rural to urban. Some communities or even individuals have been forced to move out of a particular area of land due to limited job opportunities being provided for them and leasing or even selling off their available land to fast growing/mechanized farmers thereby leading to the shortage of land available for a growing number of low income farmers.
Arable farmland is lost annually because of population increases; rural-urban migration also increases to areas of paid labor by high income farmers. The expansion of these urban areas leads to the conversion of so many hectares of arable farmland for urban projects like the construction of houses, schools, roads, parks for recreational activities as well as new towns when necessary (UNCSD, 1997).
The high rate of population growth in Nigeria has resulted in the unsustainable use of natural resources which is the basic foundation for livelihood without having concern for the future. This has led to tremendous effects on our natural ecosystem. The provisioning, regulatory, cultural and supporting services which are derived from the ecosystem are put at a high risk due to the harsh use of these natural resources (UN.ORG).
Over the years, there have been several symptoms of ecological stress like the deteriorating nature of the grass land areas, very low crop yield, soil erosion which has forced so many migration activities to the cities and low standard of living by the poor. All these effects can produce long-term, possibly permanent damage to the environment which in turn would have a huge negative effect on agricultural production.
Most of these problems are closely related to a simple factor of human population which has exceeded the carrying capacity of the land. In the light of the above problems, I would say that this thesis has been set out to identify and articulate population and production consequences within agriculture with Enugu North local government area as a reference point.
Food and indeed agriculture is very indispensable to human development. Man`s endeavor has always centered on the quest to provide for himself with the basic needs of life such as food, clothing and shelter. It is evident that the population of Nigeria grows very fast. For instance, in the national census in 1963, the population of Enugu North was 87,800 whereas as in 1991, it has increased to 174,600 which is about 98.9% increase within 28years (OBLGA Gazetteer, 2001). For instance, in 1963 National census, a total figure of 55.6million was recorded officially though it was said to have been encumbered with charges of inaccuracy and manipulation for regional and local political purposes. Nonetheless, the official 1963 figure of 55.6 million as total national populations is inconsistent with the census of a decade earlier because it implies a virtually impossible annual growth rate of 5.8 percent. In addition to likely inflation of the aggregate figure, significant intraregional anomalies emerge from a close comparison of the 1953 and 1963 figures. For instance, in portions of the southeast, the two sets of data show that some nonurban local government areas had increased at a rate of almost 13 percent per year,
while other neighboring areas experienced a drastic growth rate of 0.5 percent per year. Despite the controversy, the results of the 1963 census were eventually accepted. (U.S. Library of Congress)
Inevitably, rise in population leads to higher demand for food production. This is one of the major problems facing Nigeria today for its growing population. In Enugu North local government, there is a belief that as there are more hands involved in agriculture, it gives rise to more food production and thus leads to good livelihood for families. This as a result has contributed immensely to the increase in polygamous marriages and more children and thereby has led to an increasing population. In spite of the government`s efforts, farmers are toiling and are still unable to produce enough food for the population due to scarcity of land, mostly through land fragmentation, rural-urban migration, deforestation and so many other environmental vices. However, food production in Enugu north has not yet kept pace with the alarming population increase as a small proportion of the people are engaged in agriculture (Farmers multipurpose and co-operative society).
The main purpose of this study is to investigate and identify the consequences of population growth on agricultural production. The study introduces the following question to help in conducting the research;
What are the negative consequences of population growth on agriculture?
Research Question 2
What are the causes of population growth?
Research Question 3
What are the problems faced by the agricultural sector in Nigeria?
1.6 Statement of the Hypotheses
This study will be able to help the government and all other concerned authorities to review and improve the different ways of land management systems in the state and at the local government level, but will point out some related or closely related issues in food production in relation to population increase. By so doing, helps to device means through further research studies to provide solutions to the problem of land availability to farmers which may perhaps lead to more available farm land and hence boost food production.
In view of the above, the general public could benefit through the availability of more information now and in the future and which will also serve as baseline knowledge for subsequent scholars on a similar or related topic.
1.8 Justification of Study
1.9 Scope of the Study
The research work on the consequences of population growth on agricultural production in Enugu North was used for this study.
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