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close this bookAdam and Eve and the Serpent: Breaking the Bonds to Free Africa's Women (Ghana Universities Press, 1995, 141 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentDATA CARD
View the documentPREFACE
View the documentINTRODUCTION
View the documentLECTURE 1: Be fruitful and multiply
View the documentLECTURE 2: In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children
View the documentLECTURE 3: Socio-economic development and gender equity
View the documentLECTURE 4: Social, cultural and legal practices and gender equity
View the documentLECTURE 5: Gender, sexual and reproductive rights and equity
View the documentBACK COVER

LECTURE 1: Be fruitful and multiply

The Biblical injunction used as the title of this talk reflects the pronatalist emphasis found in many religions and common to all early human societies. Fertility of crops and of families was crucial to the survival of early mankind, and it is not surprising that something so atavistic and deep-seated in the human psyche has survived until today, although we in our lifetime have seen the biggest explosion of human population in the history of the world.

A glance at the demographic history of mankind will suffice to explain these early concerns with fertility and encouragements to reproduction. Human populations in fact grew very little until recently, because high fertility was counterbalanced by the inroads of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse described by the Evangelist: Famine, Pestilence, War and Early Death.

Around the time of Christ, the world population was about 300 million, and the rate of increase well under 0.1 per cent per year. By the beginning of the 16th century it was approaching 500 million. Then the rate of increase began to accelerate, and by the turn of the 19th century there were close to 1 billion people in the world. The two billion mark was reached in 1927. Writing in 1950, when world population stood at 2.2 billion, the biologist and philosopher (and first Director-General of UNESCO), Sir Julian Huxley, wrote with some alarm that world population would "almost certainly" pass the three-billion mark by the end of the 20th century.1 In fact the total of three billion was reached less than 15 years later and by 1974 the population had already passed four billion. How could this distinguished scientist get his prediction so hopelessly wrong? What would he think if he were still alive today, when we know that in fact population by the year 2000 will be well over six billion?

Fertility trends in the developing world

Source: State of World Population 1991

The truth is that the world has seen, in the last 40 years, a dramatic and to some extent unexpected increase in life expectancy through advances in sanitation, food production and health care: an increase in death control which has led to a huge increase in human numbers.

To put it another way, it took 10,000 lifetimes for the world's population to reach two billion people. In the course of a single lifetime today, it is increasing to three times as many, and within another lifetime it could well double again.

So in terms of human expansion the 20th century has been exceptional: there has been nothing like it before, and there will certainly be nothing like it again. For instance, the large families described as traditional in Africa are in fact a very recent phenomenon: until a few decades ago, infant and child mortality was so high that large families were out of the question. For humankind as a whole, the small family has been the norm for 99 per cent of its history. In fact it is only since 1950 that the population growth rates of the developing countries have exceeded those of the more advanced countries as a whole. Furthermore, when the more advanced countries were growing at their highest they never exceeded one per cent per annum, a completely different demographic growth from Africa's three per cent or more.

Infant mortality rates

Source: World Population Prospects 1992


People have reacted to this huge and unprecedented growth in population in two opposite ways: by claiming that human ingenuity and technological advance will solve the problems this massive growth causes; or by prophecies of doom and gloom at the prospect of ecological disaster, famines and wars, as human beings find there are insufficient resources to go round.

The prophet of the first camp is an American academic, Julian Simon, whose main contributions to the debate have been The Economics of Population Growth and The Ultimate Resource (1981). His argument can be summarized thus: commodities and energy costs have mainly tended to become cheaper for the consumer in the past, therefore they will always become cheaper in the future. Population growth is always good for people, whose ingenuity and productivity are increased by higher population density. His work has been used to give scientific respectability to the pronatalist views of the Roman Catholic Church, and was also used to justify the USA Government's position at the 1984 UN Population Conference in Mexico City that population growth was a 'neutral' phenomenon.

At the other extreme are the 'Neo-Malthusians' like Paul Ehrlich, whose book The Population Bomb (1968) contained fanciful speculation about future population-driven disasters: he forecast "a time of famines" when in a best scenario some 500 million would perish, and raised the spectre of oceans rising "perhaps by 250 feet" through the 'greenhouse effect'; he seemed enthusiastic about mandatory sterilization in India: the possibility that the country might be become food self-sufficient, as it since has, seemed then "a fantasy". In a later book, The Population Explosion (1990), Ehrlich took a slightly more moderate position and there was greater emphasis on the contribution of affluent lifestyles to ecological destruction. A group of academics known as the Club of Rome took a similarly 'neo-Malthusian' view when they published The Limits to Growth in 1972. The authors suggested that current levels of consumption and population growth were unsustainable and that the final limits to growth - meaning catastrophic shortages, starvation and disease - would be reached within 100 years. They added that the technologies of energy generation, recycling and pollution control would allow growth to continue at a lower level - but only if population growth is kept in check.2 In 1992, three of the original authors published a follow-up which suggested that the world has already gone beyond many of its physical limits3.

It was partly the excesses of Ehrlich's position in his first book and the doomsday vision of The Limits to Growth which prompted writers like Simon to take the opposite view. There is some truth in the writings of both sides, but the thesis of neither can be accepted at its face value.

What about Malthus himself? The term 'Malthusian' has often been used to describe the theory, subscribed to in modified form by Ehrlich, that all misery is caused by overpopulation: that the feeble arithmetic progression of food production will inevitably be overtaken by the rampant geometric progression of human population growth, and that there is no point in feeding malnourished people because it will only lead to greater famines in the future. In fact, Thomas Malthus, an 18th century English clergyman, economist and demographer, was not the simplistic pessimist that he is usually painted. His 'Total Population Theory' was far more complex that the deterministic man-food equation for which he is often given credit. He believed that man is subject to natural physical and ecological laws and cannot escape their consequences; but also that man is gifted with intelligence and foresight so that he can understand the workings of nature, and if he chooses, circumvent possible problems.

He did believe that human numbers are ultimately limited by the ultimate limits of food production, but this is common sense, which even Julian Simon and the Pope cannot deny: it is undoubtedly true that the global ecosystem imposes limits on the number of people the world can sustain. The question is: what are the ultimate limits likely to be? Malthus, in fact, considered that they were a long way off - he thought that the world of his day was underpopulated. He was also against any social policy of population control and also opposed contraceptive methods of birth control, insofar as they existed in his time. He put his faith in moral restraint and the voluntary choice of late marriage.4

Today Malthus might agree that the world is no longer underpopulated. He would certainly welcome the improve-ments 'in food production which enable the world to support a much larger population than he can ever have imagined possible - although at least 200 million people have starved to death or died of hunger-related disease in the past two decades,5 and as many as a billion people are chronically undernourished, about half of them seriously so.6 He might even have come to see the desirability of artificial contraception.

At this point it must be noted that global food production is more than enough to feed adequately all the world's present population. Famines and starvation are the result of poverty, man's greed, iniquitous political and trade systems, wars and man-made calamities of various kinds.


The good news is that human ingenuity has been able to increase the use of birth control, as well as death control. Over the last few decades, population growth rates have slowed in practically all developing countries. In some, birth rates have fallen to replacement level. By the late 1980s, fertility had declined dramatically in most parts of the developing world. Nevertheless, rapid population growth is still the dominant feature of global demographics, and will continue to be so until around the middle of the 21st century. The annual increase in global population will reach an all-time peak of more than 95 million between 1995 and 2000, and will remain stable at just below 90 million for the next 30 years.7

Most of this population growth is taking place in the less developed countries. Already these countries comprise 77 per cent of the world's population, but by the beginning of the next century this will increase to 79 per cent and reach 83 per cent by 2025. The population of the developing world will rise from four billion in 1990 to more than seven billion in 2025.

The contribution of the different regions of the world to this total will change over the next 30 years. In 1990, Asia accounted for nearly three-quarters of the four billion population of the developing world, Latin America and the Caribbean 440 million, and Sub-Saharan Africa 503 million. But by 2025, when the developing world's population will have increased to just over seven billion, Africa's contribution will have increased to 1.3 billion, with little Ghana growing from today's around 16 million to 34.5 million, Latin America and the Caribbean's to 701 million, and Asia's to 4.77 billion. During this time, Asia's contribution to world population will fall slightly, from 58.9 to 56 per cent, Latin America and the Caribbean's will remain almost stable at around eight per cent, the industrialized world's will fall from 23.1 to 17.5 per cent - but Sub-Saharan Africa's will increase from 9.3 to 15.3 per cent.

Population projections by region Medium variant

Source: UN Long-range projections

Fertility - the number of surviving children a woman has in her lifetime - has fallen and is still falling in most parts of the world, though not yet in most of Africa where rates are still around six and in a few countries as much as eight. Although the global population growth rate has remained constant at about 1.7 per cent since 1975, fertility has fallen overall, from 3.8 in 1975-80 to 3.3 in 1990-95. Childbearing in East Asia (including China) has declined over the past 25 years by around 60 per cent, to an average family size of 2.4 children. Countries in Latin America have also had very large fertility declines, with seven of them having declines of more than 50 per cent and 19 having declines of more than 25 per cent. In South and South-east Asia, Thailand and Singapore have experienced declines of 60 per cent, and 10 others have had declines of 25 per cent or more. In North Africa and the Middle East, eight countries have had declines of 25 per cent and four of these - Kuwait, Lebanon, Tunisia and Turkey - have had declines of more than 40 per cent.

These declines are in large measure the reflection of the success of making family planning services available to an increasingly large population in the developing world, and of the desire of women and couples in these countries to have smaller families and to use contraception for the better spacing of their families. Other positive developments, which have undoubtedly been encouraged by the availability of family planning, are reduced Third World infant mortality rates - which have fallen by half since 1960 - and lower maternal mortality.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, only three countries - Botswana, Kenya and Zimbabwe - have so far experienced substantial declines in fertility, of around 20-25 per cent. Most of the 40 countries in this region have had either a trivial change or none at all. The total fertility rate of Ghana, with a population policy in place since 1969, is still more than six. Contraceptive use in Africa has also lagged far behind other regions: whereas in East Asia 70 per cent of married women of reproductive age use contraceptives, 60 per cent in Latin America, 40 per cent in South and South-east Asia and 36 per cent in North Africa and the Middle East, in Sub-Saharan Africa only nine per cent do. Again, the three countries mentioned above provide notable exceptions, with 45 per cent contraceptive prevalence in Zimbabwe, 35 per cent in Botswana and 27 per cent in Kenya. Ghana's rates have only recently started to improve. A recent survey indicated a contraceptive prevalence rate of 24 per cent with 15 per cent due to the use of modern methods.

But even in Africa there are other extremely encouraging signs: most African governments now recognize the health benefits of family planning, and are committed to providing services. This is a big change from only 10 years ago.

Why is it urgent for action to be taken now to increase further the uptake of family planning?

There are two main reasons, each of prime importance. Firstly, there is a huge unmet need for family planning; and secondly, there are important demographic reasons.


As has been shown by the World Fertility Survey, and more recently by the Demographic and Health Surveys, there are hundreds of millions of people who are not using family planning but would like to delay their next pregnancy or stop childbearing altogether. In 60 per cent of developing countries, half the population does not have easy access to contraceptive services. In Latin America, three out of four women who are not planning their families would like to do so.

Today in Africa, particularly, there is a real unmet need for family planning, especially in the cities: there are illegal abortions and the mortality and infertility associated with them, there are adolescent pregnancies, there are abandoned children and even infanticides. While it may have been true in the past that many Africans were not interested in limiting the size of their families, it is certainly the case today that in many African countries, where family and cultural traditions are changing fast, family planning programmes are inadequate to meet the demand for both spacing and limitation of births.

The most conservative estimates put the number of couples who want contraception but do not have access to it at 120 million, but if women who want contraception for spacing purposes, and unmarried women are included, the figure is much higher. Couples lacking access to contraception are found especially in remote rural areas, and where there is strong religious and cultural opposition to providing family planning services. In some countries, indigenous people have little or no access to services because their needs are ignored.

The largest single group of underserved people worldwide is undoubtedly the adolescent population from 15 to 19 years of age. Not all are sexually active, of course, but, in all continents, and especially in Africa, increasing numbers are, and high rates of adolescent pregnancy, and abortion, are found in both industrialized and developing world societies. One reason that the contraceptive needs of adolescents are ignored is that single women are excluded from unmet needs surveys, so they do not appear in statistics. What is worse, in most countries of the developing world, family planning clinics only cater for married women -and most adolescents are unmarried. In Ghana adolescents contribute up to 20 per cent of births annually. Many pregnancies arise out of ignorance, because young people receive inadequate education on sexual and reproductive health. Sexually transmitted diseases are common among adolescents in some countries for the same reason.

Other evidence of the need for family planning is the prevalence of unsafe abortion which occurs on a vast scale and accounts for the unnecessary and cruel death every year of at least 200,000 women. Maternal mortality is particularly high in countries where abortion is illegal and contraceptive services do not reach large sections of the population.


The other major justification for doing everything possible to increase the use of family planning is the demographic one. The latest United Nations projections indicate a probable world population of 8.5 billion by the year 2025 and a peak of more than 12 billion by sometime after 2150. But ultimate figures could be much larger, or much smaller, and the difference will depend on how much fertility falls in the current decade. The only humane way of lowering this rapid population growth is by introducing quality family planning programmes in which the users are partners in the development and implementation of action plans.

It is not just the sheer numbers and the problems involved in feeding, clothing, educating, housing and employing these extra hundreds of millions of people in a decent way -and indeed trying to provide them with a better standard of living than their parents had. Rapid population growth is also having a serious effect on the natural environment in many parts of the world, and nowhere more than in Africa.

The cost of feeding the extra hundreds of millions of people has been a heavy one in environmental terms. Each year we need an additional 28 million tonnes of grain just to keep up with population growth, let alone the demands of improved diets. In the past year, from the global perspective, we have lost 25 billion tonnes of topsoil, enough to grow nine million tonnes of grain and make up the diets of at least 200 million undernourished people. We have lost 150,000 square kilometres of tropical forest, with significant costs in terms of depleted timber harvests, species habitats, watershed services and climate stability. We have lost 60,000 square kilometres to desertification so severe that these lands will not be able to grow food for decades at best; current desertification threatens the livelihoods of 850 million people. Tens of thousands of species have suffered extinction, some of which could have supplied new anti-cancer drugs such as two from the rosy periwinkle, found in Madagascar's forests. We have further depleted the ozone layer in both northern and southern hemispheres, reducing the protection it affords from cancer and cataract-causing ultraviolet-B radiation, which can also affect crop plants and marine food chains. We have taken a further step towards a greenhouse-affected world, with all the profound environmental, economic and political implications that entails.9

The progress that this century has seen in food production seems unlikely to be maintained. Between 1950 and 1984, thanks largely to breakthroughs in Green Revolution agriculture, grain production grew by an average of 2.9 per cent per year, while population growth averaged around 2.0 per cent per year. But from 1985 to 1992, there was far less annual increase in grain production, despite billions of dollars of extra investment. The law of diminishing returns seems to be operating. The 1992 harvest was only 2.8 per cent higher than that of 1985, yet there were an extra 625 million people to feed. While world population increased by 12.8 per cent, grain output per person declined by 8.5 per cent. As for the future, if ever there are 10 billion people to be fed adequately, we shall have to produce nearly three times as many calories as today. To grow that much food, we will need to farm all the world's current croplands as productively as lowa's best cornfields, or three times the present world average.10

Of course, this is not to say that population increase is the only cause of global environmental problems - far from it. Many of these problems, such as the increase in greenhouse gas emissions and the damage to the oxone layer, are largely the result of high and wasteful consumption levels in the industrialized world.

Even the low rate of population growth in the industrialized countries is arguably more damaging than the high rates in poorer countries. Britain, for example, has a 0.2 per cent annual population growth rate, with a net increase through natural growth of 116,000 people per year. By contrast Bangladesh, with a 2.4 per cent annual growth rate, features a net increase of 2.7 million people, 23 times larger. But because the fossil fuel consumption of each new British person is equivalent to 24 barrels of oil per year, and Bangladesh's to 0.3 barrels, Britain's population growth effectively contributes 3.5 times as much carbon dioxide to the global atmosphere and hence to global warming, as does Bangladesh's - and Bangladesh will suffer far more through global warming than will Britain.


Environmental damage in the developing countries is largely occurring at the local and regional levels, and rapid population growth is certainly among its prime causes. The contribution of the developing world to global environmental problems is less, but it is still significant -and it will increase. The clear-felling of rain forest by smallholders desperate to grow crops to feed their families, as in Madagascar and Ethiopia, is one example of population-driven activities which have more than a local impact. More importantly, carbon dioxide and other emissions in Africa and Asia will increase in the future as industrialization spreads and energy consumption rises, as it must while we move up the development ladder.

Although most Africans depend on the land for their livelihood, the land's capacity to produce is ebbing away under the pressure of growing numbers of people who do not have the wherewithal to put back into the land what they are forced to take from it. Trees are being cut down 30 times as fast as they are being replaced, and some 80 million Africans have serious difficulty finding fuelwood. Deforestation and overgrazing leads to declines in soil fertility. In countries like Ethiopia, topsoil losses of as much as 290 tons per hectare have been reported.

As the land's vegetative cover shrinks, its already fragile soils lose the capacity to nourish crops and retain moisture. Agricultural yields fall and the land becomes steadily more vulnerable to variable rainfall, turning dry spells into drought and periods of food shortage into famines. In most parts of Africa you can hear farmers say that it is more difficult to make ends meet, that plots are much smaller and further away, fallow periods shorter. All these trends impose extra strains on women, who are usually responsible for growing the family vegetables, fetching water and gathering fuelwood.

In Rwanda, [before its civil war] land under cultivation has more than doubled in the past 20 years, yet farm size has shrunk, and the present average is less than half the minimum area required for a self-sustaining farm. Eighty-four per cent of Rwandan farms have less than the two hectares of land required to provide for the average family, and yet Rwandan women are still having an average of more than eight children. (Note: Since this lecture was delivered, Rwanda has had a civil war, and the country's agriculture has been completely disrupted.)

In Madagascar, with a population of 14 million growing at 3.3 per cent yearly, 3 per cent of the remaining 3.8 million hectares of rainforest, which contain unique species of animals, birds and plants, are cleared annually for farming. But usually these new plots do not last long: in two or three seasons, the soil is exhausted. In the meantime, family planning services are few and far between.

In more arid parts of Africa such as the Sahel, overcropping and overgrazing is leading to increased desertification - land lost for ever to the desert. In parts of Burkina Faso, many villages have lost half their farmland under barren crusted wastes, and a third of their young men to migration.

A major part of the problem, certainly, is poverty, because if they were prosperous, Africa's farmers could afford to use high-yielding varieties, improved livestock, artificial fertilizers, and mechanized equipment for tilling and pumping. But if population was not growing so rapidly, there would be no need to clear forest for new land, even without the use of fertilizers or high-yielding varieties.


Another serious problem is water. As many as 1.2 billion people worldwide are still without easy access to good water, and nearly two billion still live with inadequate sanitation. The 26 countries considered to be regions of water scarcity, where 300 million people live, include most of those in North, East and Southern Africa and the Middle East, as well as parts of South Asia and Latin America. By 2025, three billion people will be affected - a 10-fold increase - and 65 countries will be involved, including India, Korea, Nigeria, Peru and Poland.11

This has implications for both food production and health.

Irrigation accounts for about 70 per cent of the world's total water use. In the dry developing countries farmers need to use more water than in the humid tropics for the same biomass yield. In the past 40 years, irrigated cropland has tripled.

In many cases, irrigation has brought its own problems. The Aral Sea in Central Asia has been practically drained as a result of new irrigation schemes, all started with good intentions. In what has been described as the worst environmental disaster of our time, something like 30 million people have been affected as a result of faulty watershed management on a really large scale. The sea has shrunk, the fisheries have been lost, with massive pollution from pesticides, enormous salinization, deteriorating water quality and appalling damage to the health of the people.12 This is an example of the dangers of man meddling with water resources without a good understanding of all the processes involved. Other large dam projects, begun with the intention of exploiting scarce water resources, have caused unexpected problems in the long run.

One reason for building dams is because rainfall, especially in rural areas, is often unpredictable. Water dominates the life of many people in the world's less developed countries, especially Africa. Women spend hours every day fetching water from distant wells and rivers -and when they get it, it may be infected with the debilitating guinea worm. Women are more likely to be exposed to water-borne or water-related diseases, because they are responsible for fetching water, washing clothes, planting rice in wet paddyfields and working in irrigated fields.

The world's water is finite. It will never increase, and without due care it will decrease. Major rivers, like the Limpopo and the Save/Sabi which flows through Zimbabwe and Mozambique to the Indian ocean, have dried up and now only flow seasonally. There are signs that flows of other major rivers, like the Chari-Logona, Nile and Zambezi, are decreasing. The local press has recently drawn attention to rivers drying up, and those who have been passing through Nsawam during the last 10 or so years should have noticed what has happened to the Densu River. In parts of Ghana - and many other African countries - the scarcity of water is holding back farming. In Africa generally, agriculture supports 66 per cent of the population and provides essential exports. Its healthy development is a key to slowing rural-urban migration. But it is totally dependent on a regular supply of fresh water. Water shortages will increasingly become a constraint on economic and social development, especially in countries with limited water supplies, rapid population growth and/or fast-expanding industry and agriculture.

Wells to tap groundwater sources create their own problems. Boreholes often cause local erosion through the trampling and grazing of livestock, and deplete the groundwater reserves quicker than the scant rainwater can replace it.

For women leading a marginal existence, anything that adds to their burdens adds to the risks for their health. In the case of environmental deterioration it adds to the risks for their children as well. The scarcity of firewood not only drains the energy of women and girls who must fetch it: it has indirect health impacts too. Food may not be cooked so often or as thoroughly, increasing the likelihood of diarrhoea, food poisoning and intestinal parasites. Drinking water is not likely to be boiled when fuel is scarce. Women are also most exposed to the smoke from open fires or primitive cooking stoves, which can harm their lungs and their unborn babies if they are pregnant.

It is in Africa that the biggest strides still have to be made. Family planning cannot make much headway where death rates are still high, and Africa is the continent where the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are still most active. Famine is rife in the Horn of Africa and Sudan; War has afflicted Somalia, Liberia, Mozambique, Burundi, [Rwanda] and a number of other countries recently; Early Death still ravages many parts of the region, especially remote rural areas; and Pestilence, most notably in the form of AIDS, stalks many parts of the continent.


Let us look more closely at the AIDS pandemic and its impact on population growth. According to the WHO Global Programme on AIDS, about 2.5 million cases of AIDS have occurred, and some 15 million men, women and children have been infected with HIV. Of the HIV infections, over half are in Africa. WHO estimates that there will be 40 million infections by the end of the century, and perhaps a million deaths a year. Again, it is African women who are suffering most from the AIDS epidemic.

The seriousness of the AIDS pandemic is not confined to the death toll, which by the end of the century will be much the same as that of malaria - although by then perhaps a malaria vaccine may have lowered the toll from that disease. AIDS has disproportionate effects on already weakened economies and weakened family structures in developing countries. It strikes at men and women fairly equally, and these people are struck down at the height of their vigour and economic value. In Africa the destabilizing effect of AIDS is reported by some observers as one cause of migration to the towns and cities.

But the disease is unlikely to have such a devastating long-term demographic effect as to lead to negative population growth in the whole of Africa, as some believe. The United Nations has estimated that in a hypothetical worst case, that is, if the whole of Africa were to be affected on the same scale as the worst known affected areas, Africa's population growth rate would still be about 1.8 per cent by the end of the century, doubling about every 39 years instead of the 35 years resulting from a two per cent growth rate. One reason for this is that most adults infected with HIV will have had children before they eventually die; and of the children born to HIV positive women, fortunately only 25 to 30 per cent are infected.

The threat of AIDS may encourage the use of condoms, which may have its own effect on fertility. On the other hand, AIDS contributes to social instability, insecurity and poverty - conditions which typically accompany high fertility. Another danger is that AIDS may over-concentrate minds and resources on AIDS prevention and management programmes to the detriment of investment of funds and manpower in general health and family planning and welfare programmes.

Some people want to maintain that, because of the threat of AIDS, Africa would not need to pursue population and family planning programmes. While such a position is not supported by the information we have, we should ask ourselves what moral basis there is for invoking death as a solution to the problem of a rapidly growing population in our currently technologically sophisticated world.


Because family planning programmes are so important for both health and demographic reasons, it is essential for more, not fewer, resources to be invested in this area in the future. In order for even the UN medium projection of 8.5 billion in 2025 to be achieved, the number of people in the developing countries using contraception will have to rise to 567 million by the year 2000 - a 50 per cent increase over 1990. It means reaching more than a billion couples with family planning services during the decade. Even then, contraceptive prevalence will only have risen from 51 to 59 per cent - but we will be on the right track.

Adequate funding, both national and international, must be invested in tackling all these problems. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has estimated that, in order to meet the cost of contraceptive supplies and other programme needs that are required to hold population levels to the UN medium projection, total spending on family planning and population activities in the developing world should reach a minimum of $9 billion per year by the year 2000 - about double what was spent in 1990. The developing countries themselves would raise more than half this sum, with the international community having to provide about $4 billion.

While total population assistance in the 1960s and 1970s probably exceeded the absorptive capacity of developing country governments, this changed in the 1980s and is certainly not the case today. Between 1975 and 1987 there was a 50-million increase in the number of women worldwide who wanted no more children (not counting those who wanted contraception for spacing), yet over the 12-year period the donor resources available remained virtually stagnant in real terms. Many think that family planning programmes arc over funded by the development community; but this is not so. In real terms family planning funding has been coming down during the latter part of the 1980s and the early 1990s. It fell from around two per cent of overseas development assistance in the 1970s to about 1.3 per cent.

As for the future, many programmes, especially in Africa, are new and will need substantial funding as they expand. The numbers of women in the reproductive age groups are increasing and the proportion of those women who want to use contraception is also increasing: by the year 2000, there will be nearly 1 billion women of reproductive age in the Third World (rising to over 1.2 billion by 2010), and UNFPA's target is that 567 million couples - 59 per cent - should have access to quality family planning by the turn of the century.

The best measure of what family planning can achieve is the calculation of John Bongaarts of the Population Council. He worked out how much of the fertility decline in the developing world could reasonably be attributed to family planning programmes, as opposed to the effect of socio-economic development. He concluded that family planning programmes have been responsible for fully half the fertility decline from 6.4 to 3.9 births per woman up to the late 1980s - equivalent to some 43 million births per year, as against an actual total of 120 million in the late 1980s.


Someone may rightly ask what all these figures I have been boring you with have to do with Adam, Eve and the Serpent. It is simply this: behind each single figure of the human resource is a woman who, in many instances, has put her very life on the line to give birth to that individual. For her pains and risks the female seems to be rewarded. not with elevation to the highest position in society, but rather to be trodden upon, to be given practically no voice, and in some instances to be consigned to a life that has been described by Hobbes as "nasty, brutish and short". We hear many say that Africans arc pronatalist and that African men want lots of children. It is the African women, the daughters of Eve, who are saddled with the biological burden and who because of the demands of their fertility make them the objects of iniquitous and demeaning cultural, social and even legal practices. African man, even today, is trying to shrink his rather narrow social role in the care and nurture of children.

What this means in terms of women's health, lives and freedom - and what an increase in family planning provision to satisfy currently unmet needs could mean - we shall examine in the next lecture. But before ending let me tell you a little fable. "The chicken and the pig went for a walk one fine Sunday morning. As they turned the corner they saw a large crowd of human beings eating noisily and very happily. On a notice board outside was the following: 'Ham and eggs, all you can eat, for $2'. Said the chicken happily to the pig, 'isn't it wonderful how happy our little contribution has made all these people'. The pig turned and looked at the chicken with a rather sour face and said, 'You can talk. From you it is a small contribution, an involvement. From me it is my whole life, a commitment"'.


1 'Julian Huxley on population and human destiny'. Population and Development Review Vol 19 No 3 September 1993.

2 The Limits to Growth. D H Meadows, D L Meadows, J Randers and WW Behrens. A report for the Club of Rome. Universe, New York, 1972.

3 Beyond the Limits: Confronting Global Collapse, Envisioning a Sustainable Future. D H Meadows, D L Meadows and J Randers. Chelse Green and Earthscan, 1992.

4 'What Malthus really said'. Jack Parsons. People Vol 4 No 4, IPPF, London, 1977.

5 State of the World's Children. UNICEF, 1992.

6 State of the World's Population. UNFPA, 1992.

7 World Population Projections, 1992-93 Edition. Eduard Bos, My T Vu, Ann Levin and Rudolfo Bulatao. Johns Hopkins University Press for the World Bank, 1992.

8 World Population Prospects: The 1992 Revision. UN Population Division, 1992.

9 1993 World Population, Environment and Development. Conference Statement of the World's Scientific Academies.

10 ditto

11 'Regional water scarcity - a widely neglected challenge' by Malin Falkenmark. People & the Planet Vol 2 No 2, 1993.

12 'Population and water'. Genady Golubev, People & the Planet Vol 2 No 2 1993.