If you are the sort of person who thinks of Kenya as the land of Carol Blixen, balmy nights, peaceful sunsets and extraordinary wild life parks then you should think again. Behind this veneer of belief that sets Kenya as an idyllic holiday destination lies a dark side. The 15 million strong human population of Kenya which I knew when I visited this lovely country in 1980 doubled to 32 million in 2000. If nothing is done to tackle human population growth then the population of Kenya is set to rise to 98 million by 2050. Population Growth in Africa is the elephant in the room and the globe needs urgently to tackle this problem before the African environment is destroyed beyond all recognition.
If a population has an average fertility rate of 2.1 then the population will eventually level out. However, the average fertility rate in Africa is devastatingly high and with an average fertility rate of 4.5 then this continent’s population is set to double every 20 years.
The numbers talk for themselves. Look at Africa’s projected population growth rate for the next 30 years. (see picture)
Many of us who work in health and statistics take human population projections very seriously. A part of our work may be trying to persuade others that population growth is the greatest threat to the environment, not only in Jersey but in many other parts of the world. Few people are aware of the army of researchers, environmentalists, volunteers and government officials who work tirelessly behind the scenes to not only raise awareness of the problems of unchecked population growth but also to practically tackle this problem. In the following few paragraphs we describe one such organisation which is really making a difference.
On July 11th Robin Witt, the director of an overseas aid charity called CHASE Africa is coming to Jersey to give a presentation on their very important work. This sort of organisation is known as an NGO (Non-Government Organisations) and often form the only life-line to poor people who live in remote parts of the world.
This organisation was founded in 2000 and was originally called the Rift Valley Tree Trust. It was set up to help reverse the rapidly declining forest cover. For the first 12 years it supported tree planting projects but it was whilst doing this work that the organisation came to realise that many women in rural areas were having more children than they wanted as they had no access to family planning. This trapped families into poverty and was one of the main drivers of forest clearance. In 2012 it changed its name to CHASE Africa and started giving women in rural areas the chance to choose when they wanted their next child. They still continue with tree planting projects.
CHASE Africa works with partners in rural areas running mobile clinics that offer free primary healthcare and family planning. In the last six years it has out-reached primary healthcare to nearly half a million people and had issued family planning to a third of this number.
Across the African continent there is a huge difference in the use of modern contraceptives, from an estimated 72% in the cities to only 4% in remote areas. CHASE Africa is a charity which goes into remote areas of Kenya and Uganda in-order to support the work of their local health care and family planning providers, e.g. it works with a Kenyan partner Dandelion Africa in Baringo Country where around 60% of women are not using a modern method of family planning.
Modernity has brought with it the nightmare of mushrooming population to all African countries and Kenya is no exception. The majority of Kenyan population, being poor, are unable to cope with this tidal surge in humanity. Because the vast majority of indigenous people don’t yet have access to a wired supply of electricity for their cookers (nor piped gas for that matter) so they have continued to cut down their forests in order to make charcoal fuel for their cooking. This un-regulated loss of forestry to make charcoal and to build houses, has led to the loss of trees which protect the top soil. Rain, which would normally penetrate the land has run off into the lakes. This, in turn has led to environmental stress, pressure on wildlife, not to say the problems of the locking of millions in abject poverty in ghettoes in towns and cities which we see daily on our television screens and read in our newspapers.
David Attenborough is right to be gloomy in his premonition of looming environmental devastation in Africa. President Trump’s administration recent decision not to support organisations offering abortion services means that large organisations such as IPPF (International Planned Parenthood Fund) and MS (Marie Stopes International) operating in 60 low- and middle-income countries will potentially have become subject to this ideological restriction and have had to cut back on their international programmes in many countries.
This is why we in Jersey need to take up some of this slack by boldly supporting organisations such as CHASE Africa, which hits well about its size, in their plight to expand their work of offering healthcare and family planning in Uganda and Kenya.