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 pyramid are used to show population structure for cities and countries

The following are Information that can be derived from a population pyramid:

  • The size of the population
  • The different age groups/ cohorts.
  • The proportion of males to females
  • The composition of sex.
  • The proportion of youthful/ working/ageing/dependency ratio.     


The population growth rate in East Africa is generally high. This is due to a number of factors, including high fertility rates, young age structures, and declining mortality rates.

High fertility rates are a major driver of population growth in East Africa. The average woman in East Africa has 5.2 children, which is well above the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman.

Young age structures also contribute to population growth. In East Africa, the median age is 18.7 years, which means that there are a lot of young people who are entering their reproductive years.

Declining mortality rates are another factor contributing to population growth. In recent decades, there have been significant improvements in healthcare in East Africa, which has led to lower mortality rates. This means that more people are surviving to adulthood and having children.

Here are the population growth rates in East African countries:

CountryPopulation growth rate (2023)
South Sudan3.5%

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The following are problems that result from the high population growth rate in the East African countries.

1. High Unemployment due to Population Growth

The East African countries grapple with a significant problem stemming from their high population growth rate, which often outpaces the rate at which new job opportunities are generated. This situation leads to a surplus of individuals seeking employment, resulting in high levels of unemployment. The labor market becomes oversaturated, creating intense competition for limited positions. As a consequence, many young and able individuals find themselves without gainful employment or steady income sources. This rampant unemployment not only hampers the socio-economic progress of the region but can also fuel social unrest and dissatisfaction among the population.

2. Congestion in Social Amenities

The rapid growth in population exerts immense pressure on social amenities like schools, hospitals, and housing. The demand for education and healthcare services surges, often exceeding the capacity of existing institutions. Schools become overcrowded, leading to compromised educational quality and limited individual attention for students. Hospitals struggle to provide adequate medical care due to increased patient volumes. Additionally, the demand for housing outstrips supply, resulting in substandard living conditions, informal settlements, and increased urban sprawl. Congestion in these vital sectors hampers the overall well-being of the population and strains the infrastructure.

3. High Dependency Ratio and Slow Economic Development

East African countries with a disproportionately youthful population face the challenge of a high dependency ratio. With a large number of young people who are not yet part of the workforce, the burden on the working-age population to support the dependent population becomes substantial. This situation can hinder economic development as a significant portion of resources must be directed toward supporting non-working individuals instead of being invested in productive activities. The potential demographic dividend that could result from a productive workforce is undermined when a high dependency ratio slows down economic progress.

4. Food Shortages due to High Population Growth

The East African countries’ high population growth contributes to increased demand for food, which often surpasses agricultural production capacity. This can lead to food shortages, inadequate nutrition, and potential famine situations. Agricultural systems struggle to keep up with the escalating demand, sometimes resulting in overexploitation of natural resources, deforestation, and unsustainable farming practices. Inadequate access to sufficient and nutritious food can have severe health and developmental consequences for the population, particularly for vulnerable groups like children and pregnant women.

5. High Crime Rate and Poverty/Unemployment

The convergence of poverty, unemployment, and rapid population growth can foster an environment conducive to crime. A large number of people, particularly the unemployed youth, may find themselves without legitimate means of income. This situation creates a breeding ground for criminal activities, including theft, burglary, and even more serious offenses. The lack of economic opportunities can drive individuals to engage in illegal activities as a means of survival or material gain. High crime rates not only compromise personal safety but also deter potential investors and disrupt social stability.

6. Land Fragmentation due to Agricultural Demand

The increased demand for food resulting from high population growth often leads to intensified agricultural activities. As the population expands, more land is needed for cultivation to meet the rising food requirements. This demand can cause a phenomenon known as land fragmentation, where agricultural land is divided into smaller and smaller plots due to inheritance patterns and subdivision. This land division can reduce the efficiency of farming operations, limit economies of scale, and ultimately hinder agricultural productivity. As a result, the ability to sustainably provide food for the growing population becomes increasingly challenging, exacerbating food security concerns.



What is the population? The word population comes from the Latin word Populus meaning people. Population or human population refers to the total number of people found in a given area at a specified time

The following are the importance of population

  • It promotes the supply of labor that can be used in exploiting or harnessing the idle resources like minerals, land, water bodies etc
  • It can encourage or stimulate the diffusion of technology into the destination from other areas the people who migrate posses different skills of different environmental orientations these can be spread into destination and help in the utilization of local resources

  • Migration can lead to the expansion of market for the local goods in the destination regions
  • It can encourage the intensification of agricultural activities as a result of the reduction in the size of arable land.
  • It can stimulate the growth of towns (urbanization) and the associated advantages.
  • Development of strong defense against external enemies.
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Overpopulation is a function of the number of individuals compared to the relevant resources, such as the water and essential nutrients they need to survive.

It can result from an increase in births, a decline in mortality rates, an increase in immigration, or an unsustainable biome and depletion of resources.

Overpopulation is a situation where people in a particular country are many in relation to the available resources; it is also a situation whereby the population of a country is above the optimum population.

This situation will force people to compete for the available resources and due to shortages of resources; there will be a general decline in the standard of living.

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Positive effects of Overpopulation


Large Population makes it possible to mobilize enough people to defend the integrity of the country in times of war and any other emergencies. 

Increase in Labor Market

Increasing population ensures an increase in the labor force.

Lack of growth in the labor force will make a country static, retarded, and gets to equilibrium at less than full employment level of the economy.

Large Market

Investors would like to invest in a country with a large population.

As the population continues to grow so will be the growth in demand for food, shelter, clothing etc.

Negative Effects of Overpopulation


As a result of overpopulation, the available resources would not be able to do round and this will result to poverty in the country.


Overpopulation leads to unemployment, this is as a result of the number of people looking for job outruns available resources.

Social Problems

Overpopulation brings about social problems such as bribery, prostitution, armed robbery etc.

A decrease in the standard of living

Overpopulation leads to a fall in the standard of living. As a result of increased number of people, demand for essential commodities becomes highly competitive and it is those that are rich that would be able to afford them, thereby bringing a fall in the standard of living. Brain drain

Increase in Government expenses

Possible increase in dependency ratio

Low Per capita income if production level does not increase

Increase in imports, which will result to balance of payments deficit

Shortage of food

Difficulty in educating the children 

Under utilization of Labor


Food security is when people at all times need to have physical and economic access to food to meet their dietary needs fo an active and healthy life.

this is opposite to food insecurity which is when someone is unsure when they might next eat

factors affecting food security

human factors affecting food security

  • poverty prevent people affording food and farmers buying modern equipment
  • poor infrastructure makes food difficult to transport
  • conflict disrupt farming and prevent supplies
  • food waste due to poor transport and storage
  • climate change is affecting rainfall pattern making food production difficult

physical factors affecting food security

  • temperature need to be ideal for certain crops to grow
  • the quality of soil is important to ensure crops have the necessary nutrients
  • water supply need to be reliable to allow food to grow
  • pest diseases and parasites can destroy vast amounts of crops that are necessary to feed large population
  • extreme weather events can demage crops for example floods

malthus and boserup’s theories about food supply

malthus theory

Malthus believed that population would increase faster than food supply

this would lead to a shortage of food

Malthus believed this would cause large scale famine, illness, and war

this would occur until the population returned to a level that can be supported by available food

boserup theory

boserup believed that however big the population grew, people would find ways to manage

if food supplies became limited, people would find new ways to increase production

these solutions would often involve creating new technologies

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