Breaking news – there are far too many humans on this planet, and we’re completely wrecking the place.
In case you missed that news earlier this week, the UN has now announced that we have just 12 years to “make massive and unprecedented changes to global energy infrastructure to limit global warming to moderate levels”.
Failure to do so will result in “famine, disease, economic tolls, and refugee crises” – you can read more on that bombshell report here.
One country that does seem to have a handle on population growth is Botswana, our neighbours to the north, who have one of the fastest falling fertility rates anywhere in the world.
The Guardian with a sense of perspective:
The world’s population is on track to hit 8 billion in 2023, and almost 10 billion by 2050. Sub-Saharan Africa is set to grow faster than anywhere: there were 1 billion Africans in 2010, but that number will grow to 2.5 billion by 2050.
Some have warned that this growth risks “driving civilisation over the edge”, a controversial view given that it is rich countries, not poor, that lead the way on consuming the world’s resources.
But enabling women to control their fertility – a move that almost inevitably leads to them having fewer babies – is not just about a tussle over resources, or the environment: it brings enormous ramifications for women’s health, education and employment – with knock-on effects for society and the economy.
In other words, Botswana is doing something right, and it starts way back in 1966. Here’s Dr Chelsea Morroni, founder of the Botswana Sexual and Reproductive Health Initiative:
“There’s been a huge amount of change in Botswana,” she says, pointing out that since Botswana became an independent country in 1966 the landscape developed quickly, with high levels of economic growth and development of both healthcare infrastructure and education infrastructure, enabling young women to become educated and have employment opportunities.
“All of those things on the macro level are really important to fertility declines anywhere in the world,” says Morroni, whose work is part of the Botswana UPenn Partnership: a collaboration between the Botswana health ministry, the University of Botswana and the University of Pennsylvania.
But the country made more direct strides, too. “Botswana also was very proactive in the early years in establishing a family planning programme, so in setting up a programme that was far-reaching in terms of its geographical reach, providing access to most people in the country to a range of contraceptive methods,” says Morroni.
Maternal and child health and family planning services were integrated from the outset more than 40 years ago. A suite of contraceptives are now available through facilities ranging from the most rural health posts to urban hospitals. An NGO, the Botswana Family Welfare Association (Bofwa), works with the government to reach out to even the most rural of locations around the country to improve access to sexual and reproductive health services, particularly among young people.
Hang on – so what you’re saying is efficient governance, with the needs of the people in mind, can actually have a positive impact? Shook.
Take a look at this graph if you’re not suitably impressed:
One should also factor in an increasing proportion of the population living in urban settings, and the impact of HIV, with Morroni saying that “research suggests there is an association between HIV infection and reduced fertility”.
According to a World Bank report on Botswana’s fertility revolution, the most important areas remain:
…the education of girls, encouraging women to enter in the workforce, and reaching individuals in their homes by means of visits by family welfare educators.
There are lessons to be learnt here, but around the world, especially in the countries where they are most pertinent, they fall on deaf ears.
You can read the rest of the Guardian’s piece here.
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