Cover Image
close this bookHow the Population Changes (FAO)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAims/objectives
View the documentActivity no. 1 - More or less
View the documentActivity no. 2 - Let's take a census of our group
View the documentActivity no. 2 - Let's take a census of our group
View the documentActivity no. 3 - Population investigative reporter



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, it is intended that the group members will be able to:

· Define the concept of population and population growth.

· Analyse the factors influencing population changes at village or community level, i.e., births, deaths and migrations.

· Evaluate in a practical way, the real situation in their community.

Basic concepts

· Population is the number of people in a community or specific group; e.g., world population, youth population, rural population, village population.

· Births, deaths and migration are the factors which cause increases or decreases in the population.

· Populations may be evaluated or compared by considering how quickly they are increasing or decreasing or by how many people there are in a standard area (usually a square mile or square kilometre).

· Populations are usually measured by means of a general counting, called a census.

· Over-population means that there are too many people in a given area for the available resources.

Activity no. 1 - More or less

More or less

A game to illustrate the effects of births, deaths and migration on population size, and the concept of over-population.



· The leader draws two large circles on the ground and divides them into sections to represent population changes, then draws symbols to represent birth, death or migration in each section as in the drawings on page 11.

· The leader explains that the circles represent the community, one as it was many years ago and one as it is today and that the group will play a game to show how the population changes.

· The group members divide into two groups, one for each circle. Each member of the group in turn tosses five stones into the circle and records the population changes on a large sheet of paper prepared by the group leader.

· The groups then come back together and consider the population changes in the two circles.

· The leader then starts off a discussion about what is causing the rapid population growth of today, what we mean by over-population and what measures need to be taken to control it.


So that the participants will be able to:

· Understand how births, deaths and migration combine to influence the size of the population and how fast it grows.

· See that over-population occurs when there are too many people for the available resources.



· The diagrams on page 11 to help in drawing the circles for the game. (Draw them with a stick or chalk on the ground.)

· Two large sheets of paper on which to record the population changes.

· Ten stones.

· The background information on the following pages.

· Group participation and interest.

Some background information for the group leader

What do we mean by "population"?

By "population" we usually mean the number of people or things that are in a certain area. For example, if you live with your mother, father and two sisters, we could say that your household has a population of five. Usually, we use the term population to refer to the number of people in a town, a village, a country, a region, or even the whole world.

The important thing to remember is that population must be related to a particular area. Saying, 'The population is 50," has no meaning. But saying, 'The population of our village is 50," tells us that there are a certain number of people (50) in a certain area (the village).

Sometimes the word population can he used to refer to something other than people. For example, you may hear the term "the animal population" of a certain area. For this reason, when we talk about population, if we are talking about people, sometimes we say "human population" to be sure people know what we mean.

What causes population increases or decreases?

Births. Every time a baby is born, the population of that area increases by one.

Deaths. Every time a person dies, whether they are young or old, the population decreases by one.

Migration, Not everyone lives and dies in the same place where they were born. Sometimes people decide to leave their homes and move to another area. This is called migration.

If more people are horn than die, the population is increasing. In fact, in many areas the number of people being born is much higher than the number of people dying. The result is a rapid increase in population. One of the reasons for this is that many children used to die from illness, so families had many children in the hope that a few would survive. Today, however, modern medicine has reduced the number of children who die from illnesses and people also live longer - but many parents are still having large families.

Is it bad if the population increases? What do we mean by over-population?

Population growth in itself is neither bad nor good. To decide what is the appropriate population for a household (family), village, region, country or even the whole world, we need to consider the resources that are available. If there are enough resources to permit a larger number of people to live well, an increase of population in that particular area may not be a problem. In fact, in some areas, there is a need for more people.

In many areas, however, population is increasing far faster than there are resources to provide for it. It is very difficult to increase food production, medical care, education and so on for a population that grows very fast. For a village or community, rapid increases in population may mean that schools will not be able to accept all the children or that health or sanitation facilities will not he able to cope with the pressure of so many people. Land, water and fuelwood may all be insufficient. People try to produce more food and fuelwood by using poor land but this leads to soil erosion and permanent damage so that the land becomes useless.

There are also bad effects for the mother of having many children. If she has a child every year for several years in a row, a woman will become weakened by the strain and her children are also likely to be unhealthy as she cannot breast feed them for a long enough period. Instead, if she spaces her children over a longer period of time, both she and they would be healthier.

Children in class

How fast Is the population increasing in Africa?

In most African countries, the population is growing very quickly compared to the way it increased in the past. On the average, for every 100 people there are five babies born each year. Over the same period, two people die (both children and adults). The end result is that for each 100 people in Africa, the population increases by three each year (a three percent increase).

This may not sound like much but it means that the population will double in 25 years.

This means that your village or community will have about twice as many people as it does now 25 years from now. If the population continues to grow as it is doing now, the children of the members of the youth group will live in a community that is twice as crowded as it is today.

Will the resources in the community - land, water, education and employment opportunities, etc. - be enough for everyone, or will this growth result in over-population.






Sample tally sheet to-record population changes




Total Population Increase_________

Activity no. 2 - Let's take a census of our group

Let's take a census of our group

An exercise to enable group members to understand how population can grow.



· The group leader draws a square on the ground to represent a village and explains that the group members are going to fill the square with stones (or leaves) each of which will represent one person.

· The leader explains that the first group member will put one stone, the next two stones, the next four, then eight and so on, continuing with each group member (more than once if necessary) until the square is full.

· When the square is full, the group leader leads a discussion on population growth using the questions on page 18 and any others he or she would like to add.


So that the participants will be able to:

· Understand how population grows.
· Understand that over-population can happen very quickly if resources are limited.



· The background information and questions on the following pages.
· Participation and interest of the group members.

Some background information for the group leader

During most of human history, the population grew very slowly. It took many thousand years for the total population to reach 1 billion {one thousand million). This happened around the year 1800. Then population growth started to get faster mainly because of improvements in medicine and nutrition so that people lived longer and fewer babies died.

Only about 130 years later, the population had doubled to 2 billion (in the year 1930) and just 44 years later it had doubled again to 4 billion (1974). It is expected that by the year 2000 there will be around 6 billion people in the world - and 80 percent of these people will be in the less developed countries where population growth is much faster (in most developed countries the population has completely stopped growing).

Doubling a population in a small area such as a family unit - or a village - may not seem very important. However, if every village doubles its population, and doubles again like in the exercise with the stones, how long will it be before all the land, water, trees and other resources are used up?

Total world population since the year 1800

Agricultural production can be increased in many areas, savings can be made in harvested food and new ways can be found to use our natural resources more efficiently. It is possible that the earth could support a population two or three times its present size. But it will not be possible to double food production, education, medical facilities, etc., as quickly as the population can be doubled.

Some questions to start off the discussion

1. Did you think it would take so few turns to fill the square?

2. How does this exercise relate to population growth?

3. Do you think there will be enough food, land and houses for twice the population in your village?

4. Could you doubled number of people in your house and still have enough of everything?

5. Could you double it again?

6. If every family had only two children, would the population still keep growing?

Activity no. 2 - Let's take a census of our group

Let's take a census of our group

A small-scale census to enable group members to understand how population is measured.



Note: Care should be taken in the discussion that group members are not caused embarrassment by suggesting that their family is too large. What is right for the future was not necessarily right for the past.

· The group leader first explains what a census is and how it helps to identify population changes.

· He asks each group member basic information about his family (number of people, their ages, education, employment, deaths, etc.) and completes forms like the one on page 22.

· The group leader totals the results of the group members' surveys on a large sheet of paper as on page 23, to give the population of the entire group.

· The population change is calculated as

Population of group now minus population of the group last year

· The group members then discuss the significance of their results and compare the population of one family to another.


So that the participants will be able to:

· Understand the value of a census.

· Understand how a census is taken and what kind of information can be found in census data.

· Understand the concept of population density by comparing one family to another.

· Make observations about the needs of the group based on the census (food, housing, education).



· A tally sheet to record the census information from the group members (copied from the sample on the following pages).

· The background information on the following pages.

· Group participation and interest.

Our group census

Name of member

Total family members

No. of births

No. of deaths in past year

Change in past year



Group census totals

Name of member

Total family members

No. of births

No. of deaths in past year

Change in past year




Some background information for the group leader

How do we measure population and population change?

One way we can measure the population of an area is to count all the people. This is called a census.

A census does more than just count the number of people. It also gathers information about the people's age, sex, the numbers of people in each household, the number of births, deaths, employment status, education, etc.

Census are usually taken at regular intervals, most often once every 10 years. By comparing the information from two or more census of the same area, we can see how the population is changing. And we can also predict how the population will change in the future if present behaviour continues. This can help us to plan for the needs of our community or country in the future, to ensure that there will he enough resources for everyone. Or if we see that the needs of everyone will not be met if the population continues to grow as quickly as it is now, we can make decisions about how we can slow down the growth of the population.

The census figures from many developing countries show that the population is growing much more quickly than it used to. Recently, advances in modern medicine have caused a decrease in the number of people who die each year, especially young children. However, even though the number of children dying has decreased, parents are continuing to have many children. The result is that there are many more births than deaths each year; this is causing rapid increases in population.

An important concept is that of population density, that is, how many people there are per unit of land - usually a square kilometre (km²). A village on an areas of 2 km² with a population of 1000 people has twice the population density of a village with 1000 people living on an area of 4 km².

Activity no. 3 - Population investigative reporter

Population investigative reporter

An activity designed to stimulate group members' awareness of population-related issues in their community.



· The group leader explains that each of the participants is now an investigative reporter for the imaginary radio broadcast Population News. Their job is to identify population-related issues/problems in their community and report to the group.

· The group members form subgroups of three people, each an investigative team.

· Each team selects a population-related issue in the community to investigate, for example, how far people have to walk to gather fuelwood, whether there are enough places in the schoolroom for all children of school age, etc.

· If desired, the group can prepare Population News press cards, identifying the members as population investigative reporters.

· At the next meeting of the youth group, the members report hack on their findings and make suggestions about what needs to be done to improve the situation and the issues are discussed by the entire group.

Note: This activity should be played over two sessions of the youth group.


So that the group members will be able to:

· Use their own insights and knowledge to identify population-related issues in the community.
· Develop confidence in their own ability to identify issues and make informed decisions.



· The list of population-related issues on the following pages.
· The sample Population News press card.
· Curiosity and participation by the group members.

Some population related issues for group members to investigate

1. Are there enough places in the classrooms for all children of school age?
2. How far do people have to walk to gather fuelwood? Now and five years
3. Are there adequate health facilities for everyone?
4. Where can young people get information and assistance in controlling family sized?
5. Is there work for all who want to work?
6. Is there productive agricultural land available for everyone ho wants to farm?

Population News
Press Card

_____________________is an investigative reporter on population issues in
(name of community)____________________(name of community)

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