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Population's Role in the Current Food Crisis: Focus on East Africa

Publication Abstract

Dorelien, Audrey. 2008. "Population's Role in the Current Food Crisis: Focus on East Africa." Population Reference Bureau.

The prices of agricultural commodities in East Africa, including staples of many African diets, have risen sharply over the last several years. The factors leading to increased prices and the resultant food crisis are diverse and complex. Most factors, however, can be thought of as having impacts on the supply of food and/or the demand for food. The supply of food may be affected by land and water constraints, under-investment in rural infrastructure and agriculture, lack of access to fertilizer and irrigation, trade policies, and weather disruptions. Factors that affect the demand for food include rising energy prices and conversion of croplands to biofuel production, population growth, globalization of food markets, and changing diets. The current food crisis is, in the simplest terms, a result of rapid growth in food demand in conjunction with a decline in the growth of food supply.

A number of recent reports have implicated population growth as one of the main contributors to increasing food demand. There has not, however, been a comprehensive examination of how population factors (size, growth, distribution, and composition) may affect both the supply and demand for staple food. This report explores select aspects of the population-food crisis relationship, including several that are not typically discussed, and provide examples from East Africa, which has been particularly hard-hit by the food crisis.

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