F U T U R E   O U T L O O K :

In recent decades, the increase of climate extremes in Kenya and Bangladesh has brought attention to the problematic population growth rates in both countries. Increased frequency of natural disasters such as droughts and extreme flooding in both regions, observed from the late 20th century to the present day, has augmented the urgency to curb population growth rates to mitigate the harm of future disasters on human life. Over the past decade, the population growth rates of Kenya and Bangladesh have decreased overall, but at slower rates in recent years. Attempts to reduce the size of nuclear families and introduce widespread contraceptive usage have proven useful, but only to a certain extent.

To analyze the possibility of future success in the curbing of population growth rates, it is helpful to observe how such rates in both countries have responded to specific variables such as family structure and level of contraceptive usage.

In Kenya, main efforts to decrease population growth have been made by curbing female fertility though the encouragement of contraceptive use and efforts to stimulate urbanization. Both methods have proven to have impacted the level of fertility rate among women in Kenya, though to varying degrees among different groups of women.


After initial efforts to increase education about contraceptive use in the 1970's, percentages of married women using contraceptives increased rapidly from 7 percent to 33 percent between the years of 1978 and 1993. In the past decade, however, this rate has increased slowly and eventually leveled off at a constant 39 percent in recent years. Such trends in contraceptive use have an almost direct reflection on fertility rates. Fertility rates in Kenya between the late 1970's and late 1990's declined at a steady rate from 8.1 percent to 4.7 percent but have remained stagnant ever since. For this rate to continue to decline in future years, efforts to increase the level of contraceptive use among a greater proportion of the population are needed.

Trends in fertility rates among women from urban and rural areas reveal that efforts to urbanize may prove to be a crucial factor in decreasing the fertility rate in Kenya. Although the total fertility rate in Kenya is around 5 percent, fertility rates among rural women are nearly 70 percent higher than fertility rates among women living in urban settings. This indicates that as urbanizations increases among the Kenyan population in the future, fertility rates should decline as well.

In Bangladesh, in spite of similar or worse regular climactic disasters, the government has managed to much more successfully reduce poulation growth and income poverty on top of better preparing the country to face predictable periods of flooding and storms. The total fertility rate has halved over the past three decades, the mortality rate has decreased by 62% in the same period, and child malnutrition rates have also dropped precipitously. Just as importantly, their increasingly democratic government has worked to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production to stave off famine. Instead of simply trying to reduce population growth rates by upping the use of contraceptives, Bangladeshi organizations have tried to create a new social culture by encouraging education, mainstreaming women in the workplace, and ensuring food security for much of the population.

In the traditional Four-Stage Demographic Transition Model (above) that charts the progress of individual populations throughout history related to their development, Bangladesh and Kenya are theoretically both just beyond the T3 point. Persistent population growth inhibits development and contributes to environmental degradation. Poverty is associated with high levels of unwanted births particularly in rural areas where the majority of the poor live. Consequently improved reproductive health and provision for unmet needs should be an integral part of poverty reduction strategies, especially in countries like Kenya where HIV/AIDS tend to subvert attempts to achieve sustainable development. While Kenya has also experienced a decline in population growth over the same period of time the rate of success is not as promising as that of Bangladesh. And while Kenya's total population is roughly 1/3 of Bangladesh, it is six times what it was in the 1950s.

Increasing population growth leads to continuingly unstable situations that will persistently promote ecological and other problems for Kenya and Bangladesh. Although both countries have made inroads to progress, the rate of population expansion bodes disastrously for each country's future. More advances are needed to control fertility rates to avoid impending cataclysm. A combination of methods including enhanced family planning strategies has enabled developing countries like these to combat this issue. Active use of family-planning techniques in developing countries has shot up from 10 to 12 percent in the early 1960s to over 60 percent today. In many societies, increased attention to health issues and reductions in birth rate has accompanied the demographic transition resulting in economic growth and decline in poverty. Fertility reduction through greater acceptance of organized family planning has shown positive results across the board. Investments in improved reproductive health assist in promoting gender equality and preventing barriers to social and economic participation. For improvement to occur each of the component issues involved needs to be addressed.