Population Issues in Malawi

Topics: Demography, World population, Population Pages: 8 (2692 words) Published: March 17, 2014
Malawi is endowed with a diversified natural resource base, including some of the most fertile soils for agricultural use in Southern Africa, closed forest resources covering about 30 percent of the land, abundant water resources and remarkably diverse flora and fauna, of which the uniquely rich fish resources stand out. It has a tropical climate characterized by variable temperature, rainfall and relative humidity. If properly utilized, Malawi’s natural resources can provide the basis for sustainable socio-economic development. However, they are subject to increasing pressure due to poverty and lack of environmental awareness which are both as a result of population growth. The result is increased degradation of the environment, with significant loss of soil fertility, soil erosion, serious deforestation, water depletion, pollution and loss of biodiversity. The fragile state of Malawi’s environment poses critical challenges to both human development and economic growth (state of environment and outlook report, 2010). According to the 2008 census, Malawi’s population has tripled since 1966, reaching 13,077,160 people (GOM, 2009). This is likely to continue to increase as a result of intrinsic population growth, the rate of which is estimated at 2.9%. The population density is 139 persons per km², having increased from 59 per square km2 in 1977: this makes Malawi one of the most densely populated countries in Africa .Thus this essay looks into population issues (fertility rate, age distribution and family size and composition) and their impacts on food security and the environment. Thomas Robert Malthus was the first economist to propose a systematic theory of population.  He articulated his views regarding population in his famous book, Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), In Essay on the Principle of Population Malthus proposes the principle that human populations grow exponentially (i.e., doubling with each cycle) while food production grows at an arithmetic rate (i.e. by the repeated addition of a uniform increment in each uniform interval of time). Thus, while food output was likely to increase in a series of twenty-five year intervals in the arithmetic progression 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and so on, population was capable of increasing in the geometric progression 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, and so forth.  This scenario of arithmetic food growth with simultaneous geometric human population growth predicted a future when humans would have no resources to survive on. The Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) conducted an update assessment in October 2012 as a follow up to the findings of June 2012 (Malawi VAC June 2012 Report, Bulletin No. 8, Volume 1). The update analysis projects that the number of vulnerable population has in-creased from 1,630,007 to 1,972,993 people, representing a 21% increase (342,986 people). The total population would now require 84,811 MT (up from 75,394MT) of maize equivalent with a total cash value of MK6.7bn ( about US$ 21,269,271) Just as Malthus predicted the current population increase is affecting food security. Fertility rate is an aspect of population which describes the total number of children a woman can give birth to in life through to her child bearing years (World Bank, 2003). The fertility of Malawi as of 2011was deemed to be at 5.6 and this high rate is what has seen the population of the country continue to increase over the years. One of the major causes of high fertility rates in the country is the occurrence of early marriages amongst young girls. This entails that the child bearing starts at a very young age meaning that the number of children a woman will have in her life is high. Another factor is the culture of the ethnic groups in the country. In most cultures of Malawi, women are encouraged to marry at such a young age which increases the possibility of them having a lot of children in their family. Local cultures also value children, and...
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