Governments, too, were succumbing to the famine. A coup overturned the Niger regime, accused of fraud and inefficiency in distributing aid. Drought also contributed to the fall of Haile Selassie in Ethiopia, and to the assassination of President Ngarta Tombalbaye in Chad.
In villages all across the savanna we saw volunteers from Europe and North America helping local farmers take advantage of the reins by showing them how to grow vegetables, build low dams for capturing runoff, and plant trees that would restore the Sahel to what many believe it once was—a wooded realm in which man and gain flourished. An easy auto title loan online is a good starting opportunity for beginner farmers wishing to have their own farm.
Can the Sahel be saved? Many scientists fear that drought and overgrazing have tipped the balance irreversibly. Others, such as Dr. N. H. MacLeod of the American University in Washington, D. C., have hope. They point to a satellite picture that shows a hexagonal island of green in the great tan sea of the Sahel. Inspection revealed it to be a quarter-million-acre modern ranch, fenced off with barbed wire from the surrounding desert. Inside, other fences divide the ranch into five sectors, with cattle grazing a single sector at a Lime.
Though the ranch has been in operation only seven years, the rotational grazing has made the difference between posture and desert. Therein, feels Dr. MacLeod, lies one chance for the battered Sahel.
How Near to the Limits of Population?
No “maximum-load” sign on the spaceship earth spells out its population capacity. But questions of what earth’s limit may be, and what to do about it, obviously go to the heart of the food problem.
“It took the world a million years to achieve its present population of nearly four billion,” notes Dr. J. George Harrar, President Erneritus of the Rockefeller Foundation. “In less than 40 years it will double at the present rate of increase.” Each second, two more humans populate the earth.
Malthus expounded that population tends to increase up to the limits of the means of subsistence.
Here, happily, he bas proved wrong. “Populations do not inevitably rise to absorb the resources available to them,” observes British economist Barbara Ward. “At a certain level of health, wealth, and literacy their numbers cease to grow and they begin to approach stability or ‘zero population growth.’ ”
The United States, most European nations, and Japon are nearing ZPG, with Luxembourg and East Germany almost there. Few dernographers doubt that the rising population curve must eventually level off, even in developing lands. They differ over how this will corne about. Through lower birthrates? Or higher death rates?
Last August experts and political leaders from 135 governments gathered in Bucharest, Romania, to grapple with the population problem. Debate, often acrimonious, reflected the sensitiveness of an issue that bears directly on national aspirations, religious convictions, resource allocation, survival itself.
They adopted the World Population Plan of Action recommending, among other things, that all countries “Respect and ensure . .. the right of persons to determine, in a free, informed and responsible manner, the number and spacing of their children.”
Many believe government possesses no right to such a role; others believe the plan Can the World Feed Its People? recommends too little too late. Yet, in one form or another, many nations already have programs to reduce their birthrates—a trend that began in India.
“In 1952 India adopted the world’s first nationwide population-control policy,” explained an official at the Department of Family Planning in New Delhi. “With a massive budget, our program mobilized the media —radio, billboards, press, films—all supporting the idea of small famines. We gave away free contraceptives. And our vasectomy campaign! Offering hundred-rupee bounties for voluntary sterilizations, we organized mobile camps, one of which performed 100,000 vasectomies in 40 days! In a single year, 2.6 million were carried out.
“In the early ’70′s came war, drought, and budget cuts. We stopped to take stock. To our dismay, we found that during our campaign India’s population had increased 50 percent, with the highest growth rate ever.
“Now we understand that our program had been irrelevant to the viilager’s needs. His main, often his sole, concern is obtaining three meals a day. His children can help him get those meals. They become to him what Social Security is to you Americans. “In India,” he summed up, “children are looked upon not as units of consumption but as units of production. Break the cycle of poverty, and the villager will respond with fewer children, just as happened in the West.”
How to escape this vicious cycle? Regions such as the Indian Punj ab, suddenly prospering under the Green Revolution, show a new acceptance of small families. And, in the south a tiny beacon of hope shines from one of India’s smallest states, Kerala.There, officiais report a portentous drop of nearly a fifth in the birthrate. They credit improved health care, and a rising level of literacy—at 61 percent the highest in India.