Population Change in the Wake of Agricultural Improvement:Lessons for Pakistan

Publication Year : 1992

Since the early 1960s, the mandates of agriculturalresearchers have been rooted in a “neo-Malthusian” theory of”demographic transition”. Population increase in rural South Asia, inparticular, had by 1960–63 reached the point where food supply perperson could no longer be maintained simply by increases in cultivatedarea. Food supply was therefore to be raised through higher-yieldingvarieties of staples. Such HWs were to increase food availability enoughto keep ahead of population increase. Extra food availability per personwas supposed to reduce population-induced risks of undernutrition andfamine, creating a “breathing space” while general socioeconomicdevelopment brought about lower fertility. HYV s have raised food outputsubstantially in many parts of Asia and Latin America, and many advocateHYVs as the main approach to agricultural development in Africa. Surely,many poor people’s lives have been saved by the extra employment income,and perhaps by the cheaper food, generated by HYVs. Yet the incidence ofpoverty in South Asia has probably not changed much since 1960, and theunderpinnings of the original HYV strategy have been largelydiscredited.

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