Starvation thrives on overpopulation
In Africa, starvation is chronic and persistent due to its inability to produce sufficient food from the available arable land to meet the needs of its ever-expanding population.
The food supply often falls below the necessary level. Given that most African countries cannot afford to import food on their own to cover the deficit, their food
shortage renders them unable to feed their people and causes crises of mass starvation in many parts of the expansive continent every year.
Malthus' theory on hunger. Africa's problem of its population growth outpacing its food production was first highlighted in 1798 by British economist Thomas Malthus.
According to the Malthus theory, the human population grows at a geometric (exponential) rate, i.e.,
1->2->4->8->16->32, etc, whereas the food supply, at best, only increases at an arithmetic rate, i.e., 1->2->3->4->5, etc.
Malthus' theory highlights a major problem: where and when population expands faster than agricultural production, mass starvation prevails.
On the global scale, the Malthus theory has yet to come true. Albeit the world population has increased at a tremendous rate as predicted by Malthus, advances in agricultural science and technology have drastically increased the food supply in the West to vast surplus levels never seen before in human history.
Such is the surplus agricultural output in the developed world that 40 percent of the food supply in Western countries is thrown away into garbage bins and trucked off and dumped to decompose in landfills.
Population and starvation in Ethiopia -- a case study. South Wollo, Ethiopia, is heavily populated and cultivated. Most of its 2.5 million people live in the Central Highlands, mostly because they are free from sicknesses, especially malaria.
It gets very cold in winter nights and the frost also destroys crops, which puts another limitation on the peoples' lives. Because of the increase of the population, the land has been divided and subdivided and farmers try to grow as much as they can on their tiny patch of land. They grow wheat, and barley at higher altitudes.
A local type of grain called 'teff' is well-liked by the highlanders, but can only be grown under the right conditions. Famines have occurred in the area in 1962/3 and 1972-74. This was in the era of Emperor Haille Selassie. Another world famous famine was in 1984/5, when an estimated one million people died in Wollo. Luckily famine has more or less been avoided since then. However, there are still the problems of increasingly smaller farms, less tree cover, more erosion and land exhaustion.
There are barely forests left in Wollo. In fact, wood is so scarce that the penalty for stealing it is damnation from the church. Forest covers only about 1% of Wollo's land area and just 3% in Ethiopia as a whole. The unreliable 'Belg', a series of small rain showers, is depended on by the farmers between February and April. When the rains fail, the farmers must plant later in July, with the likelihood that their crops will freeze in October or November before harvest.
In 1999, farmers lost about 50,000 animals to starvation as there was no rain to renew their pastures. A big famine was prevented with food aid that year, but several hundred people died. Each year hundreds of thousands of people require some food assistance and the figures grow each year. In the year 2000, about 785,000 South Wolloyes are suspected to need food aid.
The Ethiopian government supports a threefold strategy of improving food aid, increasing agricultural inputs, and diversification through agro-industry. Whereas the food supply has improved, it still is dependent on foreign aid. Nevertheless, peasants complain that with bad harvests they cannot pay back the loans for fertilizer and seeds without further impoverishing themselves.
Land subdivisions due to the ever-increasing number of people has rendered the plots too small for a household to survive on.