Wednesday, December 12, 2007

You do the math: exploding population creates development issues in Niger

Numbers time: 85 percent of Nigeriens live off of subsistence agriculture. The population in the country’s regions doubled between 1977 and 2001. One out of every two girls is married and most likely pregnant by the age of 15. Raising the age of marriage to 18 would knock four years off a woman’s reproductive life. Only five percent of Nigeriens use family planning or contraception.

You do the math.

If the people of Niger (Nigeriens) remain uninformed about family planning and keep reproducing at the current rate the country's population will more than quadruple by 2050, imposing unmanageable demands on the economy, social services and the environment, according to research by Niger's national statistics agency.

Niger's population is counted by the Institute for National Statistics (INS), which compiles its own data through national surveys and censuses and by collaborating with UN agencies. It calculates the current rate of population growth is 3.3 percent every year.

If that growth continues, there will be 56 million people living in Niger by 2050, compared to 13.5 million today, the INS says. In 1960, Niger's population was just 1.7 million.

"We surveyed the country and found that the average number of children per mother is 7.1. However, we also asked them how many they would like to have - women said nine and men said 12, but some families said they would like 40 or 50 children," INS deputy director Adamou Soumana told IRIN.

"The only way to put it, is this is a society with a very pro-natal philosophy that encourages procreation." Soumana said.

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