Population, Land, Food: Malthus and Africa

A study of how Malthus relates to understanding, and resolving, the food-land-population predicaments of sub-Saharan Africa. After “green revolutions”, most of Asia enjoys rapid growth and stabilizing population. Yet growth in sub-Saharan Africa is slow and patchy, while projected 2050 population is ten times 1950 levels (already it has risen sixfold).  Food production – and farm and other employment – lag far behind, due to increasingly scarce land, soil nutrients and water, alongside sluggish farm technology. Might Malthus help? Not as a preacher of doom, but that is a myth. He became a flexible empiricist, exploring routes to progress:  higher food output, lower mortality, voluntary fertility decline. He integrated the analysis of changing population, land and food. Today, these topics are fragmented within, and among, disciplines (economics, demography, agriculture, nutrition, ecology). Specialization has brought advances – for example, we now see the impact of changing age-structures, which Malthus missed. Buiding on these advances, this study will re-integrate these topics and disciplines, and thereby separate true and false grounds for fear, hope and policy in Africa.

Project leader(s):
  • Michael Lipton (Sussex)