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close this bookPopulation and Agriculture (FAO)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAims/objectives
View the documentActivity no. 1 - The land, our most precious resource
View the documentActivity no. 2 - Spacing children who benefits?
View the documentActivity no. 3 - Let's plan a group agricultural project



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
Original Illustrations: Anella Armas
This Revision: Pandora Money


By participating in the activities of this module, group members will be able to:

· Improve their knowledge of the relationships between population and production of food and other agricultural products.

· Describe the relationship between population growth and demand for agricultural products.

· Describe the effects of population variations on the availability and distribution of the resources needed for agricultural production: land, water, technology, money.

Basic concepts

· As population varies, the need for food and agricultural products also varies.

· If the quantity of productive agricultural land is limited, increased population can lead to over-use and exhaustion of the soil.

· Uncontrolled population increases may actually result in a decrease in agricultural production per person.

· Population growth creates and increases a need for the development of of jobs in the rural areas (nonagricultural as well as agricultural) to reduce rural-to-urban migration.

· Reduced land availability per person will require improved farming methods if demands are to be met.

Activity no. 1 - The land, our most precious resource

The land, our most precious resource

A group participation activity to demonstrate the importance of agricultural land and how population chances can affect production



Note: It is important that the discussion brings out that one way to increase production is by increasing the amount of land farmed. but that in many cases all of the good land is already being used. This can lead to the use of marginal lands or the fragmentation of land resources

· The group leader starts off by holding up a small hag and saying that it contains the most valuable thing in the country. The leader then invites the group members to guess what is inside the bag.

· The participants try to guess and when they are successful or when they give up, the leader opens the hag to reveal its contents - some soil.

· The group members discuss why land is so important, coming to the conclusion that it is needed for agricultural production.

· The leader then asks the question, "And if the size of the population changes, what happens to the need and availability of land for agricultural production?"

· The group discusses how the need for agricultural products changes with a changing population

· The leader then suggests that the group consider what can happen to land and other resources of production when populations increase rapidly.

· To complete the activity, the group makes a list of possible ways to increase production without increasing the amount of land used.

The leader and the group

Note: It is very important that the group members participate in the development of the list of ways to improve production without increasing the amount of land used. However, if essential concepts are left out, the leader should suggest that they be added to the list.


So that group members will be able to:

· Understand the importance of land as the basic resource in agricultural production.

· Recognize that rapid population growth can make it difficult to meet demand for food and agricultural products.

· Consider means of increasing production.


With what?

· A paper sack containing some soil.
· The background information for group leaders on the following pages.
· Group participation.

Some background information for the group leader

What happens to the need for agricultural products as the population increases?

As population increases, the need for agricultural products also increases. This is true both for food production and also for non-food products such as cotton, tobacco, umber and other forestry products.

The small-scale farmer with a large family has to work harder to produce enough food than a farmer does who has a smaller family. If he is in an area where good land for agriculture is available, a farmer with a large family may be able to cultivate more land to increase his total output. But in many areas, most of the good farmland is already being used, so the farmer's land may not be enough to provide for his family's needs. This can lead to the use of "marginal land" - that is, land that is suited for pasture or forest area, but not to agricultural production. Yield from marginal land is usually low and the soil tends to be fragile and easily eroded. Cutting down the forests and farming marginal soils can produce some food in the short term term but leads to rapid soil erosion and is not sustainable in the long term.

The problem becomes even greater when the farmer's children are old enough to need land of their own to farm. As the number of people increases, the amount of land available for each person becomes less and less. In some places, the land area available may be so little that a farmer cannot even grow enough to feed his family.

How can the farmer increase yield without increasing the amount of land he uses?

How can the farmer increase yield without increasing the amount of land he uses?

To do this, the farmer needs improved farming methods, for example, the use of high-yielding varieties, fertilizer, mechanized implements, irrigation, etc. If the small-scale farmer and his wife have a small number of children, he may be able to increase production enough to feed the family and, at the same time, produce and sell enough surplus to pay for the improved inputs and for other things his family needs (but which he does not produce).

How can a large family size negatively affect the farmer's ability to increase agricultural production?

If the farmer has a large number of children, and especially if they all come in a short period of time, it becomes very difficult for him to produce any surplus at all. This is partly due to the number of people the farmer has to feed and partly because these children are all too young to help with work on the farm. Even when they are old enough to help, there is not really a need for so many people to work the small family plot. The larger the number of dependent people in the family, that is those who eat but do not help produce, the more difficult it is for the farmer to provide for his family.

With no way to either produce or earn enough to feed his family, young farmers are often pushed into moving or migrating to the cities or towns in search of work. Unfortunately, they are often unprepared for the kind of jobs available in the already crowded cities. When this happens, they can find themselves even worse off than they were before - unemployed and with no way to produce any food at all.

What effect does this have on cash crop producers?This has a negative effect even on those farmers who are able to produce surplus crops, and also on those farmers who produce non-food crops such as cotton, tobacco or forestry products. As the number of people living in the towns increases, the farmers often need to produce more food and other agricultural products. In addition to their own needs, these farmers produce cash crops, that is, crops which they intend to sell for money in order to then buy food and other things for themselves and their families.But if people are too poor because they have no work or not enough land of their own and so cannot buy food or other agricultural products even though they need them, then even cash crop farmers will have difficulty in selling their crops.Therefore, rapid population growth should be a concern for everyone, even those who have small families and enough land to provide for them.

Activity no. 2 - Spacing children who benefits?

At work

Spacing children who benefits?

An activity to stimulate group discussion using the concept of plant spacing to highlight the importance of child spacing.



· The group leader takes the group to look at a nearby cultivated field (maize would he a good crop to see, but if it is possible to observe more than one type of crop, this is even better).

· The group returns to its normal meeting place and the leader asks the group to discuss the spacing between the plants they have just seen. The leader may want to start off the discussion by asking some of the questions on the following pages.

· As a group, the members prepare a chart highlighting the importance of plant spacing. The group leader should suggest the points on page 16 if they are not mentioned by participants.

· The group leader then asks the group to suggest how spacing of children in a family can have beneficial effects similar to those achieved by proper plant spacing.

· The group members make a chart on child spacing parallel to that on plant spacing. Again, points can be suggested if they are not mentioned by the group members.


So that group members will be able to:

· Understand the importance of plant spacing in achieving healthy and high yielding crops.

· Recognize the potential benefits of child spacing, including improved health for both mother and child fewer economic burdens on the family, more time to meet each child's need for attention and affection, etc.


With what?

· A little advance preparation by the group leader in identifying a good place to observe plant spacing.

· Two large pieces of paper to make the plant spacing and child spacing charts.

· The background information and charts on pages 15 - 20.

· Group participation.

Some questions to start off the group discussion

1. What did you notice about the way the plants were spaced?
2. What do you think would happen if the plants were spaced closer together?
3. Would we get a bigger harvest? If not, why not?
4. What would happen if the plants were spaced much further apart?
5. Can you think of similarities between plant spacing and child spacing?
6. What could be some of the advantages of leaving at least two years between the birth of children?
7. Can you think of differences between plant spacing and child spacing?

And any other questions the leader wishes to ask.

Some background information for the group leader

Plant spacing in the field

Why is proper plant spacing in the field important to ensure good agricultural production?

In order to grow properly, plants need three essential elements: light, water, and nutrients from the soil. The amount of these essential requirements any plant can have depends directly on how close it is to its neighbours.

If plants are spaced too closely together, they are forced to compete. For example, plants that compete for light tend to grow tall and spindly, with stems that are so long that they cannot bear the weight of the plant. Crowding too many plants into a plot of land also results in the fertility of the soil being drained off, unless very high levels of fertilizer are used.

Sample Chart on Plant Spacing

Advantages of Proper Plant Spacing

1) Plants receive adequate light and are able to grow to full size.
2) Plants do not compete for water.
3) Soil nutrients are adequate.
4) Weeding between plants is easier.
5) Seeds are used more efficiently.

Potential Results of Improper Plant Spacing

1) Plants crowd each other for light and become tall and spindly.
2) Plants grow tall, weak stems and few leaves.
3) Soil fertility is drained unless very high levels of fertilizers are used.
4) Seeds are used wastefully.
5) Weeding becomes very difficult, resulting in low yields.

What determines how plants should be spaced?

The spacing between plants - small

The spacing between plants - large

Not all crop varieties grow to the same size. Some remain small, and can be planted closer together. Others are big and spread out. They need more space on the ground.

The spacing between plants and rows will also vary with the type of farming. For example, under irrigated conditions plants may be spaced closer together to make the best use of precious water. Having the correct amount of space is one part of making the best possible use of the land. Regardless of how much space plants need? it is a good idea to plan the spacing carefully, and to grow plants in rows. This makes it possible to get in between them and manage them more easily (for example, top-dress fertilizing, weeding, thinning and watering).

Information about proper spacing of crops can be obtained from your local agricultural extension worker

Sample Chart on Child Spacing

Advantages of Adequate Child Spacing

1) Mother has time to regain her strength between pregnancies.
2) Mother has more time for productive work or personal improvement.
3) Breast-feeding can be continued longer for each child, helping to ensure better nutrition.
4) Parents have more time to give each child the affection and attention they need.

Potential Results of Improper Child Spacing

1) Mother's health can suffer.
2) Babies born too close together are more likely to be small and sickly.
3) Abrupt termination of breast-feeding of previous child may occur, leading to poor nutrition.
4) Family resources may be put under pressure.
5) The family standard of living may be lowered.

How can child spacing help a family to ensure a better standard of living for its members?

How can child spacing help a family to ensure a better standard of living for its members?

As with the plants in a garden, the members of a family each have specific needs - food, clothing, housing, rest and sleep, education, love and affection, etc. If children are horn too close to each other in age, the pressure on family resources is increased and may result in a lowered standard of living.
Often, couples have children immediately after they are married. In fact, many women get married because they are already pregnant. Young couples may be anxious to have children, but by having children immediately, the husband and wife may give themselves heavy responsibilities before they are ready to meet them. If children are born one after another, the mother has no time to recover her strength between pregnancies. As a result, she cannot adequately care for her children and take care of her household responsibilities. This can result in a household affected by sickness and disease, in which children grow up without the attention and affection they need.

The wife with the child

Who should decide about family spacing?

The husband and the child

The decision of how many children to have and when to have them should be discussed and shared by the husband and wife together. Their primary goal should be to ensure that they will be able to meet the basic needs - food, health, affection, education, housing - of all of their family.

They also should consider their expectations and hopes for the future, for example, what standard of living they hope to achieve. Individual goals are also important.

It is important that young people make these decisions for themselves, based on careful thinking and good information. Of course, they may wish to discuss important decisions with their relatives, other members of the community, or social workers, but in the end, they should make their own decisions.

Activity no. 3 - Let's plan a group agricultural project

Let's plan a group agricultural project

A group activity to plan and implement an agricultural income-generating project.



Note: One way to help guide the discussion might be to create a chart of possible ideas. A sample format for the chart is presented on the following pages and some possible ideas are included, but it is up to the group to identify ideas which make sense to them.

· The group leader explains to the group members that they will plan and develop an agricultural income generating project.

· The leader asks for suggestions for types of projects from the group members and, if necessary, stimulates the discussion with some of the questions on the following pages. A chart of project ideas like the one on page 28 is then prepared using a large sheet of paper.

· Once the group members have identified a project or projects which seem possible and profitable to them, the leader invites the local agricultural extension agent (whose presence has been arranged in advance and who has attended the early part of the group meeting) to advise the group on getting the activity under way.

· With the help of the leader and the extension agent, the group makes formal plans for their project and also decides what they will do with any profit they may make.


So that group members will be able to:

· Learn about improved agricultural techniques and methods.

· Make actual plans for a specific agricultural income generating activity.

· Become familiar with their agricultural extension agent and the proper means of obtaining information on improved farming techniques and practices.


With what?

Note: This activity will result in the group members planning an agricultural income generating project to work or together. However, the group members should also be encouraged to consider undertaking some of the ideas discussed as part of this activity on their own or with their families

· Advance preparation by the group leader.

· The assistance of a local extension agent.

· Several large sheets of paper on which to write suggestions from group members and the final plans for the group activity.

· The background information and chart (pages 2528).

Some questions to start off the group discussion

1. What crops or animals could the group successfully produce in this area?
2. What supplies and/or inputs would the group need and where could the money to buy them come from?
3. Is there a ready market for the produce?
4. Is it an activity from which the group could expect a year round income, or is it a seasonal product?
5. Is it a perishable product which would have to be sold immediately, or could it be stored and sold over time?
6. How would you se the profits?
7. Would this project be useful for the community?

Some background information for the group leader

What are the challenges facing rural youth in terms

I of agricultural production?

Many of today's rural youth will he tomorrow's farmers. They will have the responsibility for providing the food and agricultural products needed for themselves and their families, and the growing numbers of town people as well. In most areas, rapid increases in population lead to competition for fertile agricultural land, so they will have to meet this challenge with limited land resources. This means that they will need to understand and use improved technologies in order to increase yields without reducing soil fertility.

In many cases, this will mean that young farmers will need to engage in agricultural activities which are very different than those practised by their parents, both in terms of methods and choice of crops. At the same time, these young farmers will need to

I understand that there is no one best solution and that they will have to decide how best to provide for themselves and their families.

Where can rural youth obtain information: arid assistance on improving and increasing: agricultural production?

Where can rural youth obtain information: arid assistance on improving and increasing: agricultural production?

The extension services of the Ministry of Agriculture are a network of locally-based experts who have the responsibility for ensuring that improved agricultural techniques developed at the national level, reach the farmers and that researchers know about farmers' problems. As part of this activity, it may be appropriate for : you, the

As part of this activity, it may be appropriate: for : you, the group leader, to invite the local agricultural extension worker to come and help the members of your group explore and develop ideas. Using a resource person or persons is a good way to make your youth group activities even more interesting.

What special challenges do young women face in agricultural activities?

What special challenges do young women face in agricultural activities?

In Africa, women play a major role in all phases of agricultural production. With the exception of the initial clearing of the land, women are involved in all parts of the agricultural process. They provide much of the labour for planting, weeding and harvesting and they have the major responsibility for the marketing of most produce.

But in spite of this, in the past, women have been given little credit or income for their work and almost no say in agricultural decision-making.

To meet the needs of tomorrow, women must be fully integrated into agricultural development. Women should be encouraged to attend and participate in meetings with agricultural extension workers, and to become full partners in the agricultural activities of the family and community.

Sample chart of ideas for group income-generating activities


Start-up needs

Labour needs

Seasonal year-round


Field crops

· Maize

· Beans


· Tomatoes

· Onions


· Rabbits

· Chickens

· Goats


· Soap-making

· Vegetable drying


· Digging an irrigation ditch

· Digging a well

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