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Population Growth and Environmental Recovery: Policy lessons from Kenya

The beneficial interactions between population growth, growth in output per head, and improvements in environmental status, have recently been studied for the period 1930-1990 in Machakos District, Kenya, through research by the Overseas Development Institute, London, and the University of Nairobi. The outcome of the study not only shows improvement of the environment, but also conflicts with other common beliefs, for instance, that there has been little increase in agricultural productivity in Africa, that increased commercial production harms food supplies, that investment in semi-arid areas does not pay as well as investment in more humid areas, that out migration is all negative, and that development depends overwhelmingly on government initiative and aid support. It finds considerable progress, much of it generated by local effort, in the relatively supportive policy environment provided by Kenya. This paper summarises the results, and then discusses how far the experience of the District could be replicated elsewhere.

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