Malawi’s rising population is a serious cause for worry for the country’s socio-development, economy and environment, an analyst has said.
According to statistics from the 2015-16 Malawi Demographic and Health Survey) (MDHS) conducted by the National Statistical Office (NSO), the country’s population stands at 17,749,826.
This statistic shows an increase of the population by 3.11 % from a similar survey carried out in 2010 whose rise was at 2.99% from the preceding survey.
According to Economist Dalitso Kubalasa, this poses a great threat to the country.
Malawi’s GDP by 2015 according to the economywatch was at MWK 176,997.00.
Kubalasa told Malawi24 that over the years, the trend has affected the nation’s economy, development, people’s socio-economic wellbeing and the environment.
He said: ‘’Rapid population growth is therefore putting undue pressure on the scarce natural resources, much more so on the ever-strained provision of public social services (education, health and other infrastructure) besides any equally strained public efforts to create wealth-creation and employment opportunities.‘’
Kubalasa who heads the Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN) added that the environment has also not been spared with the end result falling to its disadvantage.
“The population increase has therefore actually exerted more pressure on land over time, resulting in intensive and unsustainable land use, among others ending in such floods and drought disasters as have hit in the year 2015 ever. The rate of soil erosion above all else has increased over time, due to the increasing cultivation of marginal land and general and wanton cutting down of trees, all of which is highly susceptible to soil erosion. Poor farming practices have also exacerbated the problem. Deforestation has occurred at a very rapid rate in order to pave way for farmland,” he told Malawi24.
He added: “In terms of social development, Malawi’s social indicators confirm the presence of widespread poverty, just as the social status of many Malawians, especially the poor, is relatively low. This is continuously witnessed by low literacy rates, high mortality rates, high fertility rates, low productivity and low levels of income. The high fertility rate combined with a projected decline in infant mortality implies a high population growth and further pressure on the land, the environment and the delivery of social services.”
But what could be done to make sure that the population growth does not affect the economy greatly? Kubalasa said there is need for the implementation of strategies that will aim at curbing the rapid population.
“Implementing a comprehensive reproductive health care program, targeting improving literacy, promoting gender equity and promoting economic empowerment for rural development. In order to facilitate sustainable economic development and attain people’s better living standards, the population should have access to basic social services including functional literacy, primary education, primary health care, clean water and sanitation and decent shelter,” he said.
In addition, the economist said more efforts also need to be done towards raising the literacy levels in Malawi which he argues pose serious implications for the labour productivity.
“Any increases in adult literacy rates will therefore greatly help further encourage the understanding and the eventual expected effective use of any such propagated family planning methods and directives or policies which help lead to reduced fertility rates,” he added.
According to a recent World Bank report, total population in Malawi was last recorded at 16.8 million people in 2014, from 3.5 million in 1960, representing a 377 percent increase in 50 years.
Malawi has one of the highest population growth rates in Africa. In 1965 the population was estimated at 3.9 million and it had reached 7.982 million by 1987, and the estimated average growth rate was 3.2 percent per annum. In 1998 the population was estimated at 11 million and is expected to reach way over 30 million by the year 2020.
While the country’s total fertility rate has been declining over the past two decades, they remain one of the highest in Africa.
Currently the total fertility rate is at 4.4 (2015-16 (MDHS) from 5.7 in the 2010 MDHS.