Cover Image
close this bookIntroduction to the Population Education Leaders Guides (FAO)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentAbout these leaders guides...
View the documentPopulation education and out-of-school rural youth.
View the documentHow are these population education materials organized?
View the documentWhat to consider when using a resource person.
View the documentWorking with youth groups
View the documentConclusion



Before using this guide, please read the notes in the introduction booklet.

All of the material in this module has been carefully thought out and tested with youth groups in a number of countries. It contains material which is thought to be important and appropriate for young people to know. However, because every group is different, it is not possible to produce a booklet which is perfect for everyone, so it is important to remember that this booklet is intended as a guide for the leader.

This means that it is up to you the leader to use this material as you see fit You may wish to adapt some of the group activities to make them more appropriate to your group.

Some of the material you may not wish to present yourself - perhaps because you do not feel technically competent or because you find it embarrassing or awkward to discuss certain matters with the youth group. In these cases you may wish to ask a local expert in that subject to address your youth group. For example, an agricultural extension officer for the agriculture projects, a small business advisor for income generating activities or a health worker for the health and nutrition aspects. Use of a resource person like this does not make your role as the group leader any less important, but they can add interest and authority to the subjects taught.

The modules may be used in any order, but the modules with the same colour cover are best used together since they cover one general area

First edition was published and field tested in 1988 and 1989 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Project INT/88/P98 "Integration of Population Education into Programmes for Rural Youth in Low-Income Countries" with funding from the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA).

This revision was published in 1990 and is based on field test findings from the first edition.

The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official view of FAO. The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

Original Concept and Text: W.I. Lindley & S.A. Dembner
This Revision: J.F. Cook
Illustrations: Pandora Money


This package of population education teaching materials has been produced as part of the continuing efforts of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to assist member nations in addressing concerns about the relationship between population growth and the achievement of development goals, particularly those in the areas of integrated rural development and sustainable agricultural production.

The materials are one of the major outputs of the Inter-regional FAO project, "Integration of Population Education into Programmes for Rural Youth in Low-Income Countries, "for which funding has been provided by the United Nations Population Fund.

FAO views population education as a process which enables people to recognize and understand the implications of population factors for the well-being of the individual, the family and society.

In many areas of the developing world, rapid increases in population growth are placing an increasingly heavy burden on national development efforts. FAO recognizes that the people of a country are both the driving force of development and the target for all its development efforts. However, whilst the population is one of the nation's major assets, many government now recognize that uncontrolled population growth can turn this asset into a liability. Increasing agricultural production by 10% is of little help if over the same period, the population increases by 20%. As a result of these views, the demand for assistance in turning the tide of rapid population growth is rising rapidly. In turn, FAO has made an increasing commitment to projects and programmes that assist member countries to meet this challenge. These materials are intended for use with out-of-school rural youth (future parents and producers) to help them understand the effects of rapid population growth and the need for responsible parenthood.

They should be used to reach rural young men and women through existing youth groups, young farmer's clubs, social associations, church groups, the scouting movement, etc. The ten guides which make up the teaching materials are intended for use by the leaders of these youth groups in conducting a series of structured learning activities.

Many organizations and individuals provided invaluable information and advice during the development of these teaching materials and their support is gratefully acknowledged. Special mention must be made of the assistance of the Unesco Regional Population Education Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean. The wholehearted collaboration of Regional Population Adviser Jairo Palacio, expert consultants Rafael Mazin, Maria-Clara Arengo and Manuel Ordorica, and the entire support staff of the Programme were instrumental in enabling the leaders guides to be successfully completed. These revised versions of the leaders guides are based on extensive field testing in Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe. The assistance of the government staff in the Ministry of Rural Development, Social Services and Youth in Sierra Leone and in the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture in Zimbabwe, is gratefully acknowledged as is the support of the numerous youth groups and their leaders involved in the pilot phase of the project.

About these leaders guides...


For whom is this set of population education materials intended?

These population education materials are meant for use with existing groups of rural youth in Africa. They are designed as a guide for the group leader, to assist him or her in including population-related ideas into the normal activities of the youth group. To make this easier, the suggested activities, which are the main part of the leaders guides, are varied in nature and easily combined with a wide variety of other activities. They are intended to be of value and interest to such varied groups as rural youth cooperatives, church associations, the scouting movement, national political youth groups, young farmers' associations, etc. It is up to the group leader to decide how to use the guides and how the activities will be included in the normal group meetings. Some leaders may wish to change some activities to make them more appropriate to their own youth group. Sometimes the leader may like to involve another person (called a resource person) to add interest and support the activities suggested in the guides (see page 20). The guides are suggestions only, not a set of directions that must be followed exactly.

What do we mean by population education?

By population education we mean a learning process that enables people to understand how rapid population growth affects their quality of life or standard of living. The goal of population education is to give people enough information to be able to make responsible decisions about family size in a way that is personally meaningful and socially relevant.

Why is population education important?

Over the past few decades, the populations of many developing countries have increased very rapidly. People are the most important resource of any nation, but when the size and growth rate of the population exceed the ability of the nation to reach and maintain a reasonable quality of life for its people, then instead of being a source of strength, population becomes a weakness.

When the population of a country grows too quickly, it puts heavy pressure on natural resources. Agricultural land is often overused and land which is not really suited for cropping is cleared for agricultural use, resulting in the erosion and depletion of the soil. Forests are cut at an alarming rate -much faster than new ones are created. Water, already in short supply in many areas, becomes even scarcer and may often become polluted as well.

It is often possible to increase crop yields using new varieties and modern methods. But food production cannot easily be increased as fast as the population is increasing in many countries. The population of a village may double every 25 years, but it is rarely possible to double food production every 25 years.


Social services such as education and health facilities also become overburdened. Malnutrition and disease increase, employment opportunities, especially for youth, fall further and further behind demand, and crime and violence spread.

Because of this challenge to the development of the country, many governments are now preparing policies and programmes to slow down the growth of their populations. Although policies may be developed by governments however, the actual decisions which influence the population growth of a nation are made by individuals and families. for "the good of the nation" but it may be easier if they can see that their action will also result in direct benefits to themselves. Therefore, one of the most important parts of an effort to reduce the population growth rate of a nation is a programme of education on the effects of rapid population growth on individual and village life, and ways in which population growth can be controlled.

Should population education programmes be for adults or children?

At first, population education programmes were designed only for adults - often together with family planning efforts. Soon it became clear however, that population education would be more likely to be effective if the ideas were also taught to young people as they began to make decisions about their careers and families, but before they actually began having children of their own.

As a result, population education was added to school curricula in many areas. But in many parts of the developing world, very few young people actually finish school and many never attend school at all. In Africa, for example, less than 10 percent of all youth complete secondary school. This means that most young people, especially those in the rural areas where the drop-out rate was highest, do not have access to population education information.


Population education and out-of-school rural youth.

Clearly, a way had to be found to reach out-of-school rural youth. One way in which young people in rural areas do receive information is through the various youth groups and organizations such as scouts, young farmers, religious organizations, 4-H, etc. Working through such youth groups is one way in which informal education and training can take place out of school.

Advantages of groups

It is easier to reach a number of people through a group than working with them individually. Decisions made by a group are also easier to uphold because of pressure from the group members. For this reason any education campaigns which try to affect attitudes work well through groups. It is very important however that the group leader makes the group feel that what they do is their decision, not something they have been told to do. The leader should always allow the group to discuss ideas and come to their own conclusions.

Some of the leaders guides also make suggestions for small business/income generating activities. Groups provide some security against the risk involved in starting up new ideas - the cost can be shared, different group members can contribute ideas and abilities and confidence is increased through working together in a group.


For these reasons, these leaders guides have been developed for work with youth groups.

For population education to be useful to rural people, it must deal with matters of immediate concern to rural families and their villages or communities.

The effect of population changes on entire areas, the whole country, or the world in general are too remote to be meaningful to rural youth. In these leaders guides, population concepts such as the national growth rate, population density, dependency ratio or percentage of unemployment have been translated in terms of individuals, their own families, and their own villages or local communities.

The social, economic or cultural factors that produce population changes are discussed in terms of the behaviour and roles of the learners - the individuals and their families. Similarly, the effects of population change are expressed not from the point of view of the government or nation as a whole, but from that of the rural people - effects on their agricultural production, land ownership, food supply, income, health and other daily concerns.

To reflect the limited schooling of the group the leaders guides are based on oral and visual teaching -learning by doing, rather than on written materials.

It is important to remember that, for the most part, out-of-school youth are a voluntary rather than a captive audience. As such, they may be available for varying periods of time, and they can choose to walk away at any time. The population education activities in the leaders guides have therefore been kept simple, interesting and enjoyable for young people.

How are these population education materials organized?

This package of population education materials consists of ten (10) leaders guide booklets, each developing a basic concept or topic.

The ten guides are:

Group One

· Population and Agriculture
· Population, Employment and Income
· Population and the Environment


Group Two

· Population and Nutrition
· Population and Health
· The Family and Family Size


Group Three

· Responsible Parenthood
· Human Growth and Development


Group Four

· How the Population Changes
· Community Involvement


The division of the materials into ten leaders guides is intended to make it easier to use them as part of the normal activities of the youth group. The guides are grouped into related concepts but there is no fixed order in which the guides must be used. The group leader is encouraged to vary the order of the activities within a given guide as well, to suit the character and needs of his/her particular group. It is recommended, however, that the guides 'How the Population Changes' and 'Community Involvement' be used last, as they provide a means of summarizing the entire process.

How are the guides structured?

Each guide begins with aims or objectives which outline the general knowledge that the youth group members are expected to gain by participating in the activities of the module.

The objectives are followed by a number of basic concepts that are covered in detail in the guide.

Each guide continues with a series of activities (usually three or four), to increase the group members' awareness of and interest in the particular concept and its relation to rapid population growth.

Each activity is divided into:



Step-by step instructions on how the activity could be conducted.


The purpose of the activity, i.e. the results or effects the activity is intended to have on the group members.


With what?

The materials, preparations and attitudes necessary to enable the participants to get the maximum benefit from the activity, both in terms of enjoyment and learning.

Most youth groups have very little access to money, so in most cases the activities have been designed so that all the materials needed can be obtained locally and inexpensively, or can be actually made by the group leader or the group as part of the activity. In a few cases, instructional materials are included with the leader's guides.

How does the leader get the activity started?

The guides contain suggestions for the leader in getting the activity started or to keep it moving in the desired direction. For example, if the activity is based on a group discussion, sample questions are provided to help the leader get started. If the preparation of a chart or table is part of the activity, the guide provides a suggested format.

Where does the leader get background information to build up confidence in the subject and to answer questions from members of the group?

Each activity is accompanied by background information on the basic concepts covered in the activities, to help the group leader in replying to questions and comments from group members. The background information is on pages which have a light grey tint like these two pages so you will be able to find them easily if you need to refer to them during the course of group activities.

This information is intended as background for the group leader and it is a good idea if you read it to yourself before you begin the activity with your group. However, it is not intended that the leader read this information aloud to the group members.

Other background information on a subject can also be obtained from community development advisors and extension workers in your area. In some cases it might be better to talk to one of these advisors before using a guide. For example, with the guide on Population, Employment and Income perhaps there is a small business advisor nearby who could help you. On the health and nutrition guides, a nurse or health worker would be able to give you more information. In several of the guides, it is suggested that the group leader arrange for the participation of an expert on the particular topic. For example, in the module on Population and Health an activity is suggested in which a worker from the Ministry of Health comes to speak to the group.

What to consider when using a resource person.

Another name for experts such as health workers, extension agents, small business advisors, etc., is resource person. Using a resource person is a good way to make your youth group activities even more interesting and useful to its members. These resource people can't replace you as the leader - it is you as group leader who knows the group and has their respect. But resource persons can help make your job better and easier too.

What to consider when using a resource person.

When using a resource person, it is important that the leader plan ahead, both in deciding when to hold the group meeting and in arranging exactly what topics the resource person will cover.

· Meet with the resource person and explain what it is you would like to do.

· Discuss the leaders guide activity you would like him or her to take part in. Sometimes this might be a discussion session, e.g. on health or nutrition. Another time it might be to help plan a small business enterprise in agriculture or other local industry It is important that the resource person knows that you want the group to discuss the subject, not just listen to a lecture.

· If they agree, arrange a time and place where they can meet the group. (Ideally the resource person will be able to come to a normal group meeting and take part in a session, but sometimes this is not possible and a special meeting will have to be arranged.)

· When you actually hold the meeting, you as the group leader, should introduce the resource person and explain why they are there and what they will be discussing.

· Before the resource person leaves, you should summarise the session and thank him or her for coming (or maybe one of the group members could do this).

What are the teaching methods used in the leaders guides?

What are the teaching methods used in the leaders guides?

The leaders guides and the activities contained in them are designed to be used in a participatory, learning-by-doing approach. The activities should be fun and interesting. They should be something the group members can enjoy and learn from at the same time. The group members should be a part of the learning process, helping to develop all of the activities. The conclusions reached at the end of each activity should be their conclusions, based on participation and group decisions. The "traditional" process in which an instructor reads to or lectures to a group should be avoided.

Working with youth groups

A group is a number of like-minded people who meet regularly together for a common purpose. There are many different types of groups - religious groups, scouts, 4-H clubs, young farmers' organizations, political organizations. In all cases though, the group members know why they are meeting together and it is something they want to do. For a group to work well, it should have the following characteristics:

1. A clear purpose: All group members should know why the group exists and agree with its aims and objectives. It must be a purpose they are interested in - e.g. because they can learn something, because they can make some money, or because it is fun.

2. A regular programme of meetings - e.g. once every week or two. Meeting times and length should also be fixed so that all members will know when to attend and how long the meeting can be expected to last. All members should expect to attend all meetings and participate fully.

3. Size: 8-15 is the ideal number for a group to work with these leaders guides so that all members have a chance to contribute to activities. If your existing group is larger than this, perhaps it would be possible to form two smaller groups when working with the guides?

4. Type of members: Group members should live under similar economic conditions and get on well with one another. The group leader should be very careful not to allow domination of the group by older or better off members.


These guides are intended to be a self-contained package of instructional materials, enabling the leader of a group of rural youth to effectively communicate basic population-related concepts to the group members. The overall objective is to instill in rural youth the understanding that rapid population growth affects nearly all aspects of rural life, and that they themselves are the ones who can affect the population growth rate.

However, no education materials alone can be expected to "solve" the "population problem." To be effective, population education must be allied with a full range of health and social services, including family planning.

Finally, it must be remembered that population education is just one link in the overall chain of integrated rural development. Only by working together on a wide range of issues can we hope to provide a better life for ourselves and our children.

Booklets in this Leaders Guide Series:

Population and Agriculture
Population, Employment and Income
Population and the Environment
Population and Nutrition
Population and Health
The Family and Family Size
Human Growth and Development
Responsible Parenthood
How the Population Changes
Community Involvement

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Integration of Population Education into Programmes for Rural Youth INT/88/P9