Population growth and agricultural development--a case study of Kerala.

Panikar PG; Krishnan TN; Krishnaji N
Rome, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1978. 99 p. (Population and Agricultural Development: Selected Relationships and Possible Planning Uses final report, Technical Paper no. 5; ES:DP/INT/73/P02)

The study objective is to analyze the interrelationship between demographic and nondemographic factors in the process of agricultural development in Kerala. Despite a high rate of population growth and a very limited supply of cultivable land, Kerala has not had a famine in living memory. This study is an attempt to explain the response of the region's agriculture to the increasing pressure of population. Also addressed are the following related questions: the impact of population pressure on the pattern of land distribution; the interrelation between population growth and cropping pattern; the nature and impact of out-migration; and the role of family limitation. The current view is that the poor countries of the world have no chance for a better life unless population growth is held in check. This prognosis is essentially based on the premise that poverty and numbers are interlocked in a vicious circle and that one cannot be reduced without the other. Trends in Kerala's economy provide a counterexample to this thesis in some respects. Mortality rates have fallen in the region almost to the levels prevailing in the developed world, and in recent times fertility rates have also begun to decline. Between 1966 and 1975 the birth rate in the rural sector of Kerala declined by 25% according to the Sample Registration System (SRS) estimates. The National Sample Survey estimates of birth rates, though lower than those of the SRS, still indicate the same declining trend in the rural sector. The total fertility rate has declined from 5.1 in 1959 to 3.4 in 1975. The decomposition of the changes in the birth rates indicates that the primary factor for its decline during 1959-1971 was a reduction in the proportion of women married in different age groups. It appears that only 2.26% of the number of eligible couples were using contraception in 1964. This figure increased to 17.7% by 1971 and to 30% by 1976. The demographic transition seems to have taken place, unlike in Europe, in an era which was not characterized by rapidly rising incomes. The more proximate causes, direct and indirect, for the transition seem to lie in the spread of public health and medical facilities along with literacy and education. Some of the social traits which have emerged because of this process are the postponement of marriage and the acceptance of the use of contraception.

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