2.4.1  Population growth and food security

As the population grows, the amount of food required to adequately feed people is increasing. Food security exists when all people at all times have physical and economic access to adequate, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs for an active and healthy life (WHO, n.d.). In many developing countries, the numbers of hungry, malnourished people who don’t have food security are growing.

In Africa, agricultural production is increasing, but it is still lagging behind population growth. This means that even though the proportion of the population with inadequate food is decreasing, the total number of people is increasing. Graff and Bremner (2014) reported that between 1992 and 2010, the proportion of underweight children in sub-Saharan Africa decreased from 27% to 22% of all children, but the number increased from 24.8 million to 30.3 million.

One of the long-term consequences of malnutrition in children is stunting, which means children are not the height expected for their age. Stunting also affects child development and health, with the result that stunted children are less successful at school and are more vulnerable to anaemia, diarrhoea and some other diseases. In Ethiopia, more than two out of five children are stunted and 67% of the adult population suffered from stunting as children (World Food Programme, 2013). However, recent reports indicate the trend is positive and stunting has reduced in the past decade (Mideksa, 2015).

Food security can be improved by increasing the quantity and quality of food produced. This could be by bringing more land into cultivation or by improving crop yields by irrigation or the use of fertilisers. However, these ‘solutions’ to the problem will all have environmental impacts that need to be weighed up against the potential benefits.

2.4  Impacts of population growth

2.4.2  Population growth and health