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The Effects of Population Growth on Land Use

In an article in Yale University’s Environment 360, Jonathan Foley, Director of theInstitute of the Environment, University of Minnesota, argues that the global community now faces a “crisis in land use and agriculture that could undermine the health, security, and sustainability of our civilization.” While climate change has received enormous attention (rightfully, Foley argues), human population growth, and the corresponding rising global demand for meat and dairy products, as well as the growing need for bioenergy from corn, sugarcane, and other sources should be equal cause for concern. “We are putting tremendous pressure on the world’s resources.” With 70 million new people per year, Foley argues, “if we want any hope of keeping up with these demands, we’ll need to double, perhaps triple, the agricultural production of the planet in the next 30 to 40 years.” Foley said meeting the agricultural needs of a growing global population is difficult enough, but, at the same time, countries must meet growing food production needs while mitigating the effects of agricultural production on land-based ecosystems. “Already, we have cleared or converted more than 35 percent of the earth’s ice-free land surface for agriculture, whether for croplands, pastures or rangelands. In fact, the area used for agriculture is nearly 60 times larger than the area of all of the world’s cities and suburbs. Since the last ice age, nothing has been more disruptive to the planet’s ecosystems than agriculture.” Agricultural puts pressure on lands, but also on water systems. “Across the globe, we already use a staggering 4,000 cubic kilometers of water per year, withdrawn from our streams, rivers,

lakes and aquifers. Of this, 70 percent is used for irrigation, the single biggest use of water, by far, on the globe. As a result, many large rivers have greatly reduced flows and some routinely dry up. And the extraction of water from deep groundwater reserves is almost universally unsustainable, and has resulted in rapidly declining water tables in many regions of the world. Future water demands from increasing population and agricultural consumption will likely climb between 4,500 and 6,200 cubic kilometers per year, hugely compounding the impacts of climate change, especially in arid regions.” Not only are water and land resources put under stress, but current agricultural practices create pollution. “Agriculture, particularly the use of industrial fertilizers and other chemicals, has fundamentally upset the chemistry of the entire planet. Already, the use of fertilizers has more than doubled the flows of nitrogen and phosphorus compounds in the environment, resulting in widespread water pollution and the massive degradation of lakes and rivers. Excess nutrient pollution is now so widespread, it is even contributing to the disruption of coastal oceans and fishing grounds by creating hypoxic “dead zones,” including one in the Gulf of Mexico.” Another form of pollution results from current agricultural and land use practices: C02 emissions. According to Foley, current practices, including clearing forests for agricultural land, contribute 30 percent of the currently unsustainable C02 emission levels. Foley points to a few possible solutions: invest in “revolutionary” agricultural practices, a new “greener” agricultural revolution; and improve agricultural production while also mitigating environmental impacts. Foley says there is room for hope. “In recent years, for example, U.S. farmers — working with agricultural experts — have dramatically improved practices in the corn and soybean belt, cutting down on erosion, nutrient loss, and groundwater pollution, even as yields have continued to increase.”

What Is Meant by Land Use Change?
Because of the vertical and horizontal heterogeneity of landscapes, researchers from many disciplines use land survey data. Zoologically oriented landscape ecologists study the effects of horizontal heterogeneity on animal populations (Merriam, 1984; Forman, 1982). Similarly, the data can be used to help answer a key question for humankind: Is the survival of groups of people essentially dependent on landscape heterogeneity? Agriculture and other human activities imply it is. Landscape ecology is concerned with the study of land or landscape, its form, function, and genesis (change). It looks at the factors interacting at the earth's surface, including the physical, biological, and noospherical actions originated by humans. These factors form three-dimensional phenomena that can be seen as horizontal patterns of related elements (units of land) and as vertical patterns of land attributes, such as climate, rock, soil, water, and vegetation. The heterogeneity of these patterns is the main focus of landscape ecology. A landscape is viewed as a holistic entity that is composed of a variety of relationships in a relatively steady state. The maintenance of a steady state is called homeostasis, which refers to the set of positive and negative feedback factors that keep the system in a dynamic equilibrium. The steady state may evolve into another steady state over time, but it is protected from strong fluctuations by feedback factors (homeorhesis).

Population Pressure, Land Tenure, and Natural Resource Management
Massive degradation of natural resources, including forests, rangeland, and irrigation water, has been taking place in the Third World. Its growing population has increased demand for land, trees, and water, which, coupled with tenure insecurity or the absence of clear property rights, has resulted in the over-exploitation of these natural resources (e.g., Deacon 1994). This in turn has threatened the sustainable development of agriculture, forestry, and livestock sectors. The critical question is whether the current trend will continue and result in further degradation of natural resources and, ultimately, the significant deterioration of human welfare. Boserup (1965) argued that population pressure need not result in such disastrous consequences. Rather, she argued that it leads to the evolution of farming systems from landusing or natural resource-using systems, such as shifting cultivation, to land-saving and laborintensive farming systems, such as annual cropping.1 Her argument, however, is incomplete: while she acknowledged that investment is required to establish intensive farming systems (e.g., investment in the construction of irrigation facilities, terracing, and tree planting), she paid insufficient attention to incentive systems which ensure that the appropriate nvestments are made. It is widely recognized that investment incentives are governed by the land tenure

or property rights institution, as it affects the expected returns to investments accrued to those who actually undertake them (Besley 1995). In sparsely populated areas of Sub-Saharan Africa and islands in the South Pacific, land is often owned and controlled by the community where individual land rights are severely restricted and benefits are shared widely among members of extended families (Johnson 1972). If such communal ownership of land prevails and persists, investment incentives are likely to be weak and thus investments necessary for the intensification of farming systems may not be made (Besley 1995; Johnson 1972). Then, the extensive and natural resource-using farming systems may continue to be practiced, contrary to the Boserupian hypothesis. Hayami and Ruttan (1985) argued that not only technologies but also institutions change in order to save increasingly scarce resources. This would imply in our context that land tenure institutions change toward individual ownership, so as to provide appropriate investment incentives to conserve natural resources. Consistent with the induced innovation thesis, a theory of property rights institution developed by Demsetz (1967) and Alchian and Demsetz (1973) asserted, based on the historical experience of hunting communities in Canada, that property rights institutions evolve from open access to private ownership when natural resources become scarce. In many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, it is known that the system of communal property rights on cultivated agricultural fields has been considerably individualized (Bruce and Migot-Adholla 1993). Yet, no systematic research has been made as to the effect of population pressure on land tenure or property rights institutions and the effect of possible changes in land tenure institutions on the investment in land improvement towards the intensification

of farming systems and the preservation of natural resources. Based on the recently completed project concerning land tenure and the management of land and trees in Asia and Africa (Otsuka and Place 2001), this paper attempts to identify the process by which population pressure leads to the individualization of land rights and its consequences on the management of land and trees. Particular focus will be placed on the development of agroforestry systems growing commercial trees, such as cocoa, coffee, cinnamon, and rubber, which are becoming important farming systems in agriculturally marginal areas, where people are particularly poor and natural forests have degraded rapidly (Otsuka 2000).2 The conceptual framework is discussed in the next section, which is followed by the examination of the results of case studies on the management of trees and cropland. Policy implications of this study are discussed in the final section. The views expressed in this paper are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), its Board of Directors, or the governments they represent. ADBI does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this paper and accepts no responsibility for any consequences of their use. Terminology used may not necessarily be consistent with ADB official terms..

Population, Land Use, and the Environment
As noted earlier in the course, agriculture employs a high proportion of people in the Third World. In this section, we will look at population growth and agricultural development, with a particular emphasis on how population growth results in changes in land use and in utilization of the natural resource base. The discussion begins with a brief look at the arguments of Boserup concerning induced technological change in agriculture, and then focuses on Rosenzweig and Binswanger's broader analysis of the effects of population growth on production relations in agriculture. We'll conclude with an examination of two case studies: one from Zaire and the other from Rwanda.

Population growth and production relations in agriculture: Boserup and beyond
In considering how population growth influences agricultural development, we begin by noting two points. First, adding more workers to a fixed amount of agricultural land will, other things being equal, result in a diminishing marginal product of labor (law of diminishing marginal returns). Second, it is unlikely that other things will remain equal (i.e., unchanged). More specifically, in our review of the National Research Council's 1986 report on population growth and economic development in the Third World, we noted that counter to the various arguments that have been made suggesting that there will be adverse effects of population growth, Ester Boserup has stressed the notion that there will be positive effects as well. Most notable in this regard is her view that population pressure on the land will stimulate the search for and adoption of new technologies of production. In essence, then, population growth induces technological change, resulting in higher productivity of agricultural workers.

Boserup's Table 3.2 (overhead presented in class) shows various food supply systems, arrayed in order of the frequency of cropping (i.e., the intensity of land use). The shift from long-fallow to short-fallow systems and then to annual cropping and multicropping is typically associated not only with more intensive land use, but also with increasing population density and technological sophistication in agricultural production. Rosenzweig et al., in the context of a broad-ranging assessment of production relations in agriculture, provide a concise summary of Boserup's arguments regarding the effects of population growth on agriculture, identifying eight principal consequences: 1. reduced fallow periods; 2. increased investment in land; 3. shift from hand-hoe cultivation to animal traction; 4. adoption of soil fertility maintenance via manuring; 5. reduced average cost of infrastructure; 6. encourages more specialization in production activities; 7. induces a change from general to specific land rights; and 8. reduced per capita availability of common property resources such as forest, bush, and/or grass fallows and communal pastures. The first four of these effects represent efforts to increase land productivity and to offset the increased labor requirements stemming from more intensive cultivation. The fifth and sixth effects are due to economies of scale resulting from increased population density. The seventh effect generates incentives to undertake investments in specific plots of land in order to intensify production and preserve soil fertility. The eighth effect raises the possibility of overutilization of common property resources (the "tragedy of the commons").

Not only the intensity of agricultural production, but numerous other aspects of production relations in agriculture are affected by population growth and increased population density. This is best illustrated by Rosenzweig et al.'s Table 4.1 (overhead presented in class), which shows how markets for land and labor, credit markets, and various other aspects of production relations in agriculture are likely to vary between land-abundant settings and landscarce economies.

Boserup and Bandundu: Case study #1
The Boserup induced-technological-change hypothesis, in which there is a positive feedback from population growth and increased population density to agricultural development, provides a basis for some optimism. My paper on "Population Growth, Changing Agricultural Practices, and Environmental Degradation in Zaire" presents a distinctly more pessimistic view. The paper focuses on the province of Bandundu, immediately to the east of Kinshasa. The population density in this predominantly rural province is rather low (about 19 per square kilometer), and historically food production has been via a long-fallow system of slash-and-burn agriculture. Although there has been outmigration from Bandundu to Kinshasa, and migration of rural residents to the province's urban areas, the rural population has continued to grow. As the population has increased, more and more land has come under cultivation. Often this has been more marginal land, in terms of its capacity to produce food. This process, called land extensification, in conjunction with growth in the demand for wood as fuel, has contributed to deforestation. Agricultural intensification, in the form of shortening of fallow periods, has also been evident in Bandundu during the past 15-20 years. This intensification was encouraged not only by population growth within the province, but also by improved access to the Kinshasa market dating back to the late 1970s when a major paved road linking the province to the capital was completed. Thus, while some elements of the Boserup scenario are present in Bandundu, a number of others are not. Indeed, work by Louise Fresco documents that there have been additional changes in agricultural practices

designed to economize on labor (e.g., less care in field preparation) that have had the impact of hastening soil erosion and loss of soil fertility. There is potential for serious environmental degradation. The gradual destruction of forest and its replacement by open savanna reduces soil fertility. Present practices entail what Dasgupta referred to as "mining" of the soil (cf., his suggestion to use NNP, or Net National Product, which would differ from GNP by taking into account the effects of changes in the natural resource base on future consumption possibilities). Overall, then, the situation in Bandundu appears to correspond to that described by Lele and Stone in their examination of evidence from six countries in sub-Saharan Africa: "the environmental damage from the reduction of bush fallow, the more intensive use of land without supplementary biological and chemical inputs, and the depletion of forestry resources complicates the transition from low to more densely populated areas as originally envisaged in the Boserup hypothesis." The concern for the longer run, then, is that the increases in food production that have been realized via intensification will not be sustainable over the long haul. That is, it may not be possible to maintain agricultural yields. Technology, in the form of improved inputs (high-yielding seeds, fertilizers, pesticides) does exist that would allow maintenance of yields and even further increases in food production. However, the debilitated state of Zaire's economy and transportation infrastructure means that use of improved inputs is not economically feasible. The long-term prospects, then, are not at all appealing.

Demographic pressure in Rwanda: Case study #2

John May's short paper on "Demographic Pressure and Population Policies in Rwanda, 1962-1994" highlights the fact that Rwanda's economic problems are like those faced by other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, yet at the same time more extreme. In large part this is a consequence of the fact that the population density of 292 inhabitants per square kilometer means that Rwanda's density is more than 12 times as high as that for all of sub-Saharan Africa. Fertility has been very high in Rwanda, reaching a total fertility rate of 8.5 and higher in the late 1970s and early 1980s (see May's Table 2). There is some evidence of a decline during the 1990s, but fertility was still above 6 as of 1992. This high fertility, in conjunction with declining mortality, has resulted in substantial population growth (see his Figure 1). As shown by May's Table 3, this rapid population growth has been accompanied by distinct changes in land use. More land is being devoted to crop production, while less has been available for pastures and fallow. As with the Bandundu case study, these changes in land use raise serious questions about environmental degradation and sustainability of food crop production (cf., impact on mountain gorillas). May reviews the various population policies that have been attempted over the past 40 years, beginning with efforts by Belgium during the colonial period to encourage emigration to neighboring countries such as Zaire. The closing of borders after independence in the early 1960s ended this policy. A second resettlement policy, "paysannats," was attempted in 1963, and entailed resettling people to areas with land available for cultivation. This was discontinued after only a short period because demand for participation exceeded the available land. Policy aimed directly at slowing demographic growth was initiated only in 1981, when the government launched a national family planning program. Although slow in getting started, this program appears to have contributed (along with delays in marriages due to lack of land) to the modest declines in fertility observed by the early 1990s. However, as mentioned earlier, population growth remained high.

As May notes, population policies were slow to be developed and slow to be implemented, in part because they often were adopted at the insistence of foreign donors rather than reflecting priorities of national leaders. Attention in Rwanda in the past few years has been focused on the political problems associated with ethnic group rivalries. However, as May argues, once those problems are in the past, "the country will still be confronted with the same problems as before: cramped surface area, lack of natural resources, very high population density, and rapid population growth... [A] reduction in fertility will be necessary to significantly reduce growth rates and restore the promise of a better tomorrow." Whether or not public policy will be up to this challenge and if individual citizens will respond remains to be seen.