Various scholars have attempted to explain the relationships that exist between population and factors such as resources, economy, politics, and other social issues.

Modern population theory is generally thought to have evolved in the late-eighteenth century, in the writings of Malthus.


Considering views about the relationship between population growth and socio-economic, political, and environmental factors, theories of the population developed by different scholars can be grouped into two broad categories: Malthusian/Neo-Malthusian and Anti-Malthusian.

Malthusian and neo-Malthusian theories are pessimistic, and the anti-Malthusian theories are optimistic.

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Malthusian Population Theory

Malthus reflected: The population in each country is growing fast in comparison to the growth of available food-grains, and, there is, therefore, a fierce competition among them over the limited resources.

He believed that the supply of food can only increase by a constant amount, in arithmetical progression (1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5), but that the human population has a tendency to
multiply in geometric progression, (1 – 2 – 4 – 8 – 16), multiplying itself by a constant amount each time.

Therefore, eventually population would outstrip food supply until a catastrophe (positive checks) occurred.

This would be in the form of famine, diseases or war. Such
catastrophes would occur as human beings fought over increasingly scarce resources.

According to Malthus, in order to avoid the inevitable occurrence of the positive checks, human beings should adopt preventive checks (moral restraints, includes; late marriage, avoiding sexual conduct before marriage and having fewer children)

Anti-Malthusian Population Theories These are optimists who argue against Malthus. The two known theorists are Karl Marx and Ester Boserup.

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Marxian Population Theory

Marx postulated his theory favoring the socialist ideology over capitalist.

There could be no population problem under a socialist mode of production and of ownership of resources.

When existing food supplies are inadequate to support some of the population, capitalism calls the unsupported people a surplus population.

Food scarcities are purely the result of unequal distribution of resources by capitalism.

Capitalist production is not targeted to meet the needs of poor people. Instead, its aim is to increase the accumulation of capital for the wealthy.

Marx’s solution to the problem of overpopulation was socialism with a new economic structure of society within a new social order.

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Boserupian Population Theory

Boserup argues that population growth is independent of food supply and that population increase is a cause of changes in agriculture.

Boserup maintains that population growth is the cause rather than the result of agricultural change and that the principal change is the intensification of land use.

The theory of agricultural development posed by Boserup is subtler and complex than that of any of her predecessors.

She sees population pressure as a major cause of change in land use, agricultural technology, land tenure systems, and settlement form.

Boserup thought that “As the size of population increases, it results in technological innovations and advancement.”

For her, the population is an independent variable/factor, and agriculture is a dependent variable/factor.

She believed that population growth could not be controlled by the scarcity of food supply. Rather, the increasing demand for food caused by population growth would increase agricultural productivity by stimulating innovation in agricultural systems and technologies.

In this regard, she said that “Necessity is the mother of invention”



POPULATION DENSITY refers to the number of people living in an area per square km.

In East Africa, some places have got high population density while others have got low population density.

Causes of high population density (why some areas have high population e.g. Shores of Lake Victoria, Kabale, Mbale and along the coast)

  • prefer living in areas with milder temperatures and more predictable weather patterns. For example, areas with warm climates and abundant sunshine, such as coastal regions, may have a higher population density than colder, more mountainous regions. Additionally, areas with reliable rainfall and fertile soil can also have a higher population density as it can be a good condition for agriculture. People tend to move to areas with a climate that is comfortable for them and that can support their way of life, whether it be farming, tourism, or other industries.
  • The presence of deep and well-drained fertile soils that support farming also attract a large number of people e.g. Kabale and Mbale.

  • Availability of abundant supply water for both domestic and commercial use e.g. Kampala and Nairobi.
  • Presence of many industries that attract a large labour force e.g. in Jinja and Dar-es-salaam.
  • Availability of a variety of minerals such as Diamonds in Shinyanga and limestone in Tororo.
  • Urbanization attracts many migrants into large cities for social amenities e.g. in Dodoma, Kampala, and Mombasa. This can lead to high population density in urban areas because as more people move to cities, the population in those cities increases. Urbanization can be driven by a number of factors, such as economic opportunities, access to amenities, and political stability. Urban areas often have more job opportunities, higher wages, and better access to education and healthcare than rural areas. Urban areas also tend to have more diverse cultures and social opportunities, which can attract people to move there. Urbanization can also be driven by government policies that encourage or facilitate the growth of cities. Urbanization can also be driven by the increase of the service sector and the technological advancements that made possible to do remote works.
  • Easy accessibility due to well-developed transport and communication net work for easy movement. This is because good transportation infrastructure, such as roads, public transportation systems, and airports, makes it easier for people to move around and access job opportunities, amenities, and other resources. This can attract more people to live in the area, increasing the population density. Additionally, good transportation infrastructure can also make it easier for goods and services to be transported in and out of an area, which can further boost economic development and attract more people to live there.

  • Availability of a relatively flat landscape makes settlement and development of infrastructures relatively easy hence attracting large settlements.
  • Migrations patterns: High population densities can also result from migrations patterns, as people move to different areas in search of better economic opportunities or other factors.
  • Political stability: Regions with political stability tend to have higher population densities as people feel more secure in these areas.
  • Cultural and historical significance: Places with cultural or historical significance may attract more people and have higher population densities.
  • Limited resources: In areas with limited resources, such as small islands, population density may be high due to the need to make efficient use of land and other resources.


POPULATION DENSITY refers to the number of people living in an area per square km.

In East Africa, some placeslike Nairobi, Kilimanjaro region and around lake Victoria have got high population density while other places like dodoma and rukwa regions in Tanzania and northern part of Kenya have got low population density

Causes of low population density (why some areas have low population e.g. Karamoja, Ankole-Masaka corridor, Masai land and Turkana land)

  • Low and unreliable rainfall that cannot favour agriculture e.g. the desert region of Chalbi in northern Kenya. Rainfall influence agriculture by providing water for crops therefore area that have low and unreliable rainfall have few people per square kilometre as compared to areas with heavy and reliable rainfall
  • Hot temperatures of 300C and above that make it impossible for many people to live in such areas e.g. in Karamoja. Areas with high temperature does not attract people to live there while the areas with moderate temperature attract settlement. Therefore areas with high temperature such as karamoja and northern part of Kenya have low population density as compared to areas with moderate temperature such as areas around mount Kenya.
  • Absence of surface water that is essential for human life e.g. in Masai land.

  • Poor quality soils that can’t support agriculture tend to scare away settlements e.g. Miombo woodlands.
  • Pests and diseases such as tsetse flies and mosquitoes in some parts of central Tanzania scare away man due to fear of losing his life.
  • The remoteness of the area hinders accessibility due to poor transport and communication lines.
  • Limited economic activities mean that jobs are not existent.
  • Limited social services scare away people.




Population pressure is a situation in which the number of people is greater than the carrying capacity of the land and its resources.

In this case, the resources are fewer than the number of people and hence cannot satisfy the needs of the people in that particular area.

Population pressure is related to overpopulation.

Population pressure can be mitigated by either reducing the population in relation to resources available or by increasing the capability of the population to extract the resources through improving the technology and skills of the population.

The population can lead to negative impacts such as hunger and starvation, overcrowding in social services, unemployment, and environmental destruction.

What are the different aspects of population pressure?

There are many different aspects of population pressure, but some of the most important include:

  • Resource depletion: When a population grows too large, it can put a strain on the resources that are available. This can lead to shortages of food, water, and other essential resources.
  • Environmental degradation: Population pressure can also lead to environmental degradation. This can happen when people overuse natural resources, pollute the environment, or destroy habitats.
  • Economic inequality: Population pressure can also lead to economic inequality. This can happen when the resources are not distributed evenly among the population.
  • Social conflict: Population pressure can also lead to social conflict. This can happen when people compete for resources or when they are forced to live in crowded or polluted conditions.

What are the causes of population pressure?

The causes of population pressure can vary from place to place, but some of the most common causes include:

  • Rapid population growth: Rapid population growth is the main cause of population pressure. This can happen when there is a lack of access to family planning services or when there are cultural or religious factors that discourage people from using birth control.
  • Low levels of economic development: Low levels of economic development can also contribute to population pressure. This is because people in developing countries often have more children in order to help with labor or to provide for them in old age.
  • War and conflict: War and conflict can also lead to population pressure. This is because people who are displaced by war or conflict often have to live in crowded and unsanitary conditions.
  • Climate change: Climate change is also a factor that can contribute to population pressure. This is because climate change can lead to food shortages, water shortages, and other environmental problems that can force people to migrate to other areas.

What are the effects of population pressure?

The effects of population pressure can be far-reaching and can have a significant impact on the environment, the economy, and society. Some of the most common effects of population pressure include:

  • Environmental degradation: Population pressure can lead to environmental degradation, such as deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution.
  • Economic inequality: Population pressure can lead to economic inequality, as the resources are not distributed evenly among the population.
  • Social conflict: Population pressure can lead to social conflict, as people compete for resources or as they are forced to live in crowded or polluted conditions.
  • Disease outbreaks: Population pressure can also lead to disease outbreaks, as people are more likely to come into contact with each other and with disease-carrying animals.
  • Refugee crises: Population pressure can also lead to refugee crises, as people are forced to flee their homes due to environmental degradation, economic inequality, or social conflict.

What are the solutions to population pressure?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to population pressure, as the best approach will vary depending on the specific circumstances. However, some of the most common solutions include:

  • Family planning: Family planning is one of the most effective ways to reduce population growth. This can be achieved by providing access to contraception and by educating people about the benefits of smaller families.
  • Economic development: Economic development can help to reduce population pressure by providing people with better opportunities and by reducing the need for large families.
  • Environmental protection: Environmental protection can help to reduce population pressure by preventing environmental degradation and by ensuring that resources are used sustainably.
  • Education: Education can help to reduce population pressure by raising awareness of the issue and by providing people with the skills they need to make informed decisions about their family size.
  • International cooperation: International cooperation is essential to addressing population pressure. This is because the issue is global in nature and requires a coordinated response from all countries.
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