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Rural population growth, agricultural change and natural resource management in developing countries: a review of hypotheses and some evidence from Honduras

  • Pender, John L.

This paper reviews hypotheses about the impacts of rural population growth on agriculture and natural resource management in developing countries and the implications for productivity, poverty, and natural resource conditions. Impacts on household and collective decisions are considered, and it is argued that population growth is more likely to have negative impacts when there is no collective responses than when population growth induces infrastructure development, collective action, institutional or organizational development. The impacts of population pressure, particularly on natural resource conditions, may be very different in different contexts, depending on the nature of local markets, institutions, and other factors. Thus careful and comparative empirical work is needed in different contexts before general conclusions can be drawn. There is still a lack of such empirical evidence. The results of one study in central Honduras are used to examine some of the hypotheses presented. The results support neo-Malthusian concerns about the effects of population growth on land degradation, but also provide some support to Boserupian predictions that population pressure will induce adoption of labor-intensive land improvements, collective action to manage natural resources, and organizational development. In general, however, the impacts of population pressure were found to be relatively small and other factors, including infrastructure development and technical assistance programs, had stronger impacts on agricultural change and natural resource management. Although induced innovation theory argues that population pressure may induce such policy responses, we found that these interventions were more likely in less-densely populated communities. This emphasizes that such “induced” policy responses to population pressure do not happen automatically.

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Paper provided by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in its series EPTD discussion papers with number 48.

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Date of creation: 1999
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Handle: RePEc:fpr:eptddp:48
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  1. Pender, John L. & Scherr, Sara J., 1999. "Organizational development and natural resource management: evidence from central Honduras," EPTD discussion papers 49, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  2. Pender, John L. & Kerr, John M., 1999. "The effects of land sales restrictions: evidence from south India," Agricultural Economics, Blackwell, vol. 21(3), pages 279-294, December.
  3. Binswanger, Hans P & McIntire, John, 1987. "Behavioral and Material Determinants of Production Relations in Land-Abundant Tropical Agriculture," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(1), pages 73-99, October.
  4. Paul Romer, 1989. "Endogenous Technological Change," NBER Working Papers 3210, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Clay, Daniel & Reardon, Thomas & Kangasniemi, Jaakko, 1998. "Sustainable Intensification in the Highland Tropics: Rwandan Farmers' Investments in Land Conservation and Soil Fertility," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 46(2), pages 351-77, January.
  6. Krautkraemer, Jeffrey A., 1994. "Population growth, soil fertility, and agricultural intensification," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 403-428, August.
  7. Pender, John L. & Place, Frank & Ehui, Simeon K., 1999. "Strategies for sustainable agricultural development in the East African highlands:," EPTD discussion papers 41, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  8. Angelsen, Arild, 1999. "Agricultural expansion and deforestation: modelling the impact of population, market forces and property rights," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(1), pages 185-218, February.
  9. Templeton, Scott R. & Scherr, Sara J., 1997. "Population pressure and the microeconomy of land management in hills and mountains of developing countries:," EPTD discussion papers 26, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  10. Ault, David E & Rutman, Gilbert L, 1979. "The Development of Individual Rights to Property in Tribal Africa," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(1), pages 163-82, April.
  11. Pender, John L. & Scherr, Sara J. & Durón, Guadalupe, 1999. "Pathways of development in the hillsides of Honduras: causes and implications for agricultural production, poverty, and sustainable resource use," EPTD discussion papers 45, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  12. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
  13. Pender, John L., 1996. "Discount rates and credit markets: Theory and evidence from rural india," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 257-296, August.
  14. Pender, John L. & Kerr, John M., 1996. "Determinants of farmers' indigenous soil and water conservation investments in India's semi-arid tropics:," EPTD discussion papers 17, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  15. Besley, Timothy, 1995. "Property Rights and Investment Incentives: Theory and Evidence from Ghana," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(5), pages 903-37, October.
  16. Udry, Christopher, 1996. "Gender, Agricultural Production, and the Theory of the Household," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 1010-46, October.
  17. Baland, Jean-Marie & Platteau, Jean-Philippe, 2000. "Halting Degradation of Natural Resources: Is There a Role for Rural Communities?," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198290612, March.
  18. Scherr, Sara J. & Hazell, P. B. R., 1994. "Sustainable agricultural development strategies in fragile lands:," EPTD discussion papers 1, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  19. Stefano Pagiola, 1996. "Price policy and returns to soil conservation in semi-arid Kenya," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 8(3), pages 225-271, October.
  20. Salehi-Isfahani, Djavad, 1988. "Technology and preferences in the Boserup model of agricultural growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 175-191, March.
  21. Robinson, Warren & Schutjer, Wayne, 1984. "Agricultural Development and Demographic Change: A Generalization of the Boserup Model," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(2), pages 355-66, January.
  22. Richard A. Easterlin, 1980. "Population and Economic Change in Developing Countries," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number east80-1, August.
  23. Becker, Gary S & Lewis, H Gregg, 1973. "On the Interaction between the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(2), pages S279-88, Part II, .
  24. Pender, John L. & Kerr, John M., 1998. "Determinants of farmers' indigenous soil and water conservation investments in semi-arid India," Agricultural Economics, Blackwell, vol. 19(1-2), pages 113-125, September.
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