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close this bookReversing the Spiral - The Population, Agriculture, and Environment Nexus in Sub-Saharan Africa (WB, 1994, 320 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentAcknowledgments
View the documentAcronyms and abbreviations
Open this folder and view contents1. Introduction
Open this folder and view contents2. Agricultural stagnation and environmental
Open this folder and view contents3. The demographic dimension
Open this folder and view contents4. The Nexus of population growth, agricultural stagnation, and environmental degradation
Open this folder and view contents5. The role of women in production systems
Open this folder and view contents6. A framework for action
Open this folder and view contents7. Reducing population growth
Open this folder and view contents8. Promoting sustainable agricultural development
Open this folder and view contents9. Infrastructure development, migration, and urbanization
Open this folder and view contents10. Managing the natural resource base
Open this folder and view contents11.Conclusion
View the documentStatistical appendix
View the documentBibliography
View the documentThe Authors


Over the past thirty years, most of Sub-Saharan Africa has seen rapid population growth, poor agricultural performance, and increasing environmental degradation. Why do these problems seem so intractable? Are they connected? Do they reinforce each other? If so, what are the critical links? Reversing the Spiral tests the hypothesis that these phenomena are strongly interrelated. The finding—that this nexus is very much at work in Sub-Saharan Africa—tells us that the design of development efforts must come to reflect this reality.

Key links are found in traditional crop and livestock production methods, land tenure systems, women's responsabilities, traditional family planning mechanisms, and methods of forest resource utilization. Traditional systems and practices, well suited to people's survival needs when population densities were low, were able to evolve in response to slow population growth. But with the acceleration of population growth in the 1950s, traditional ways came under increasing strain resulting in the triad of problems addressed here.

Solutions are complex. Effective responses have not been forthcoming from international and donor communities, except on a very [united scale in a few places. This study assesses successful and [ailed interventions With that base it recommends concrete and implementable strategies to intensify agriculture, increase demand for smaller families, reform land tenure practices, conserve the environment, and address the special problems of women. An important message is the need for Africans themselves to lead the process and for empowered farmers to manage their own development.

Understanding that the major African dilemma described in this book resulted from a nexus of problems enables a nexus of solutions. The hope is that the message of Reversing the Spiral—by stimulating and informing policies and investments of governments, NGOs, and donors and by engaging African leadership—will effect the recovery of food security, natural resources, and health in Africa.

Several country-specific population, agriculture, and environment nexus studies have been initiated to deepen this work and are referred to in this book. The Supplement to Reversing the Spiral, a detailed statistical analysis supporting the argument of the book, has been published as a companion to this volume. Inputs to the study came from World Bank staff, the FAO, the Caisse Franse de Dloppement, the French government's Ministry of Cooperation, USAID, the Swedish International Development Authority, the German KfW, the British ODA, IFPRI, SPAAR, the World Wildlife Fund, the World Resources Institute, the Global Coalition for Africa, and a large number of African officials and academics.

E. V. K. Jaycox
Vice President, Africa Region
The World Bank