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Part 5 - Energy issues in developing countries

14. The crisis of rural energy in developing countries
15. The developing world: the new energy consumer
16. The role of rural energy
Comments on part 5

14. The crisis of rural energy in developing countries

Kunio Takase

1. The background of the study

Since the World Commission on Environment and Development published its report entitled Our Common Future (WCED, 1987), a number of international conferences have been held to minimize the hazards of indiscriminate exploitation of natural and ecological resources and, at the same time, to eradicate poverty in the developing world. In spite of many agricultural studies on existing environment and resource management in the rural development sector, little effort has been made to analyse and synthesize them into action programmes to form the basis of socio-economic development in the third world.

It was in this context that in 1990 the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, through the International Development Centre of Japan (IDCJ), initiated a comprehensive four-year study entitled "Global Environment and Agricultural Resource Management." The study has four main focuses, each of which has become a topic of the year with a three-country case-study, as follows:

1. 1990/91: Slash-and-Burn Cultivation (Brazil, Nigeria, and Indonesia)
2. 1991/92: Overgrazing and Land Degradation (Syria, Kenya, and Bolivia)
3. 1992/93: Fuelwood Harvesting and Forestry Degradation (Mali, Honduras, and Nepal)
4. 1993/94: Land Degradation by Soil Salinization and Erosion (Pakistan, Egypt, and Mexico)

This paper is based on the IDCJ Mission's study in 1992/1993. Figure 14.1 is the IDCJ Mission's schematic concept of socio-economic development and global environment, finalized after a series of discussions between the Mission and its partners in the 12 countries and international organizations visited by the Mission.

At the top of the scheme, the Mission placed "population explosion and economic growth" as given propositions of socio-economic development and the main causes of environmental destruction. Three major development sectors ("rural development," "industrial development," and "urban development") are placed at the second level.

The "industrial development" sector has three major environment-related development objectives, namely "wood production," "water resources," and "energy resources." The major energy resources, such as fossil fuels (e.g. coal) and nuclear power, are not free from environmental destruction, resulting in greenhouse effects, acid rain, and nuclear waste. Frequent use of gas is also harmful, because it creates an ozone layer hole. "Wood production" requires cutting trees and inevitably involves the extinction of species, greenhouse effects, forestry degradation, land degradation, and soil erosion, and finally results in grassification and desertification. The "urban development" sector comprises the areas directly affected by population explosion, particularly in developing countries. Inadequate habitation causes health hazards and diseases. Massive unemployment leads to further deterioration in low-income families' living conditions and accelerates urban pollution. These two development sectors are, however, not directly related to agriculture and rural development per se, and major international efforts, governmental and non-governmental, are already under way in these problem areas.

The Mission's main focus is, therefore, the "rural development" sector, in which "food production," "enterprise" (income-oriented agriculture), and "fuelwood" (energy source for home consumption) are the major development objectives. In particular, food production has been the top priority in the world since the end of World War II owing to continuous and accelerating population explosion. It takes different forms, such as slash-and-burn cultivation, pasturage, migration, modern agriculture (supported by chemical products including fertilizers and insecticides derived from "energy resources"), and irrigation and drainage (supported by "water resources"), while agricultural enterprise is often associated with plantations, including non-food products such as rubber, coffee, and fibre crops. These activities, if carelessly planned and implemented (as in many cases in the past), contribute a great deal to environmental destruction including forest degradation, land degradation and soil erosion, and desertification, as shown at the bottom level in figure 14.1. Such environmental destruction is intricately connected to poverty, which further accelerates environmental destruction, thus forming a vicious circle with irresponsible development efforts.

Fig. 14.1 The IDCJ Mission's schematic concept of socio-economic development and global environment (Note: This diagram is not intended to be exhaustive or definitive in explaining all factors concerning socio-economic development and the global environment, but facilitates a systematic way to carry out the four-year-study without losing sight of the entire conceptual framework)

The statistics show that the major causes of forest degradation are slash-and-burn cultivation (45 per cent), overgrazing (30 per cent), and "other," including fuelwood harvesting (25 per cent). The Mission adopted a theme for each year on this basis. In accordance with the emphasis in each year, a step approach was taken (1, 2, 3, and 4) in the scheme, so that the four-year study was able to maintain its systematic approach without losing sight of the overall conceptual framework. It was the Mission's conviction, after the field trips, that "technical innovation," "financial resources," and "implementing capacity" supported by "political will" and "people's participation" (see fig. 14.1) are the minimum requirements to prevent environmental destruction and to maintain compatibility between development and the environment. This schematic concept is considered to be a good starting point for logically organizing many complicated and integrated factors related to the "three Es," namely energy, economy, and environment.

2. Global forest resources

The global forest area is estimated to be in the range 3-6 billion hectares (ha) and its share of the global land area to be between 20 and 45 per cent. The large ranges in these statistics are due to the inaccuracy of the basic data available, particularly in developing countries. Table 14.1 shows forest areas in the world in 1980. The total forest area was 4,300 million ha (32 per cent of total land area) and, in addition, forest in fallow and bushes occupied 1,000 million ha. This makes the total area of woody vegetation 5,300 million ha, or 40 per cent of the total land area of the world.

Table 14.1 Global forest resources, 1980

  Forest areaa (million ha) % of total land Forest area per capita(ha) Forest in fallow and bushes (million ha) Total area of woody vegetation (million ha)
World 4,320.5 32.3 0.9 1,030.4 5,350.9
Developed countries 1,967.8 34.8 1.6 0 1,967.8
North America 734.5 37.9 2.4 0 734.5
Europe 158.9 30.5 0.3 0 158.9
Japan 25.3 67.9 0.2 0 25.3
USSR 928.6 41.5 3.5 0 928.6
Othersb 120.5 13.1 2.3 0 120.5
Developing countries 2,352.7 30.4 0.7 1,030.4 3,383.1
Africac 739.6 25.4 1.6 608.3 1,347.9
Latin America 987.6 48.2 2.8 313.4 1,301.0
China 170.0 17.7 0.1 - 170.0
Asiad 272.8 17.8 0.3 62.2 335.0
Oceaniae 182.7 66.3 0.3 46.5 229.2

Source: FAO, Forest Resources 1980, Rome, 1985.

a. Total of closed and open forest.
b. Australia, New Zealand, Israel, South Africa.
c. Excluding South Africa.
d. Excluding Japan, China, and Israel.
e. Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Papua New Guinea, etc.

The total growing stock of wood resources in the world is estimated at 340 billion m and the average wood-growing stock is calculated at 80 m/ha. The per capita forest area is roughly estimated at 0.83 ha and the per capita wood-growing stock is 65 m The three main factors controlling forest growth and distribution are temperature, rainfall, and human activities. According to Mather (1990), potential wood production is estimated at 3-12 m/ha/year.

In pre-history, forest was believed to cover more than half of the global land area and benefited human life a great deal through hunting and collecting food, and over 90 per cent of the demand for forest resources was for fuelwood. After industrialization in the seventeenth century, however, much wood was used for shipbuilding, house-building. and other industrial products.

In North America, by the nineteenth century about 60 million ha of forest had been opened up, of which 90 per cent was for agriculture, 9 per cent for fuelwood and construction, and the remaining 1 per cent for pasture. About half of this area (30 million ha), however, remained uncultivated as barren land. In 1891, the Forest Reservation Act was promulgated, and in 1905 President Roosevelt made a speech about forest conservation. Russia and the middle European countries also recognized the importance of forest conservation and started taking conservation measures.

In Africa, however, colonial Europeans drove out traditional forest for development and commercial logging. The Mediterranean countries, too, suffered from forest degradation. In China, a slow but gradual deforestation process started in 3000 B.C. and continued until the nineteenth century. Most of its forest area was lost, falling to only 9 per cent of the total land area in 1950. It recovered to 12 per cent of the total land area in 1980 through intensified afforestation efforts.

In Japan, until the end of the nineteenth century, fuelwood and other products had been sufficient for consumption needs. From the end of the seventeenth century man-made forests began to be created in an attempt to compensate for primary forest harvesting, which had reached its limit. The afforestation method undertaken in the Yoshino area (central Japan) was a forerunner of agro-forestry (the technology was known as the Taungya system in Myanmar and later Tumpangsari in Indonesia). Even in 1936, about 15 per cent of agricultural land in the mountain area of Japan, or 77,000 ha, was rotated as shifting cultivation or agro-forestry with integrated utilization of agriculture, fodder, logging, and fuelwood. With these very careful conservation practices, the forest area is still roughly 68 per cent of the total land area even today, which is exceptional.

Figure 14.2 reveals the change in forest areas between 1971 and 1986. In developed countries, the forest areas slightly increased, whereas in developing countries they continued to decrease, especially in the tropical regions. From 1981 to 1990, the average area of deforestation was 16.9 million ha per year (0.9 per cent of the total forest area). In contrast, the area of afforestation was 1.1 million ha per year, which represents only 6.5 per cent of the deforested area. In Asia, the afforestation rate was 12.5 per cent, while in Africa it was 2.5 per cent. It can be concluded that the afforestation efforts are far from adequate and should be increased over tenfold if the forest resources are to be sustainable.

Fig. 14.2 The change in forest areas, 1971-1986 (1971 = 100; figures in brackets denote volume in 100 million ha. Note: Forest areas include natural forest, artificial forest, and fallow areas for replanting; "tropical countries" = 76 developing countries in the tropical area. Source: FAO, Production Yearbook1987, Rome)

3. Fuelwood and rural energy

Fuelwood and industrial wood

The consumption of wood can be divided into two major uses: industrial wood use (timber, pulp, panel, and paper) and fuelwood for energy use. According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) statistics for 1985 (Masher, 1990), over 80 per cent of wood harvested in developed countries was for industrial use, whereas in developing countries about 80 per cent of wood harvested was for fuelwood. Furthermore, 76 per cent of industrial use occurred in developed countries, whereas 84 per cent of fuelwood was used in developing countries, as shown in table 14.2.

In developed countries, about US$58 billion were earned from timber exports from 2 billion ha of forest, whereas in developing countries only US$10 billion were earned from timber exports from 2.3 billion ha of forest. Since most of the fuelwood harvesting was taking place in tropical dry forest and open forest, which was causing serious environmental destruction, the FAO and World Bank started in 1978 to invest in community forest projects. The World Bank's historical lending records in the forestry sector reveal that before 1970 most of the lending was for industrial forestry. However, since its social forestry project started in the Philippines in 1977, 32 projects out of 64 over the next 15 years were for social forestry, 21 projects were for industrial forestry, and 11 projects were for environmental forestry. However, the performance of these projects has been mixed. Recently, more people-oriented projects, with special attention to their ownership and with more incentives for farmers, such as community forestry, farm forestry, and household trees, have become the new fashion.

Table 14.2 Wood usage, 1985



Industrial wood


Volume (m. m)


Volume (m. m)


Volume (m. m)


Developed countries            
Volume (m. m) 263 16 1,160 76 1,422 45
Per cent 18   82   100  
Developing countries            
Volume (m. m) 1,384 84 358 24 1,743 55
Per cent 79   21   100  
Volume (m. m) 1,646 100 1,518 100 3,164 100  
Per cent 52   48   100  

Source: Mather (1990).

The demand for and supply of fuelwood in developing countries

The FAO has conducted a systematic survey of fuelwood harvesting in developing countries for the past 40 years and published the results in the World Forestry Inventory in 1953, 1958, and 1963. At the UN Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy in August 1985, the FAO predicted that the oil crises of 1974 and 1979 would lead to an energy crisis in the third world, and clarified the link between fuelwood harvesting and forest degradation by processing data on the supply and potential sources of fuelwood. This survey was very comprehensive and conducted by local consultants in various regions under the supervision of the FAO. It involved 2.1 billion people in 95 developing countries (of whom 1.7 billion were found to be suffering from shortage) and was carried out from February 1980 to July 1981 (table 14.3).

Fuelwood is the fourth-largest energy source, after only petroleum, coal, and gas. It supplied 5.4 per cent of world energy consumption in 1978 and is the largest renewable source of energy. Demand for fuelwood for cooking and heating varies according to cooking method, climate, lifestyle, and the efficiency of stoves, and ranges from a minimum of 0.5-1.0 m/ha/year. to 3.0 m/ha/year. in the mountain area. On the supply side, the productivity of fuelwood varies from 4.0 m/ha/year. in closed forest to 2.0 m/ha/year. in conifer forest, 1.0 m/ha/year. in savanna forest, 0.5 m/ha/year. in low savanna, 0.1 m/ha/year. in shrubby forest, and 0.1 m/ha/year. in fallow forest. About 1 ha is required for one person's energy per year. To estimate the global balance of fuelwood, 2.3 billion ha of forest in developing countries can supply fuelwood for only 2.3 billion people, but the population of the developing countries has already reached 4.1 billion. Population increase in developing countries will further aggravate the balance of fuelwood supply.

Efficient utilization of fuelwood and alternative energy

Improved cooking stove

Most of the cooking stoves used in developing countries are not heat-efficient and produce thick smoke, which is not good for health. If cooking stoves were improved to be heat-efficient and to produce less smoke, this would be good for rural people. But experience has proved that things are not that simple, because rural people claim that these improved cooking stoves do not warm the inside of the house and they miss the smoke's effect of killing insects. So it is important to develop a variety of improved cooking stoves that meet the varying priorities of rural women and are also economical and easy to use.

Table 14.3 Areas of fuelwood shortage in developing countries, 1981




North Africa and Middle Eastc


Latin Americae


A No. of areas of shortage 19 0 4 6 29
Population, 1980 (m.) 55 0 31 26 112
Study area Mali (North) - Nepal (Mountain) - -
B No. of areas of shortage 19 11 10 10 50
Population, 1980 (m.) 146 104 832 201 1,283
Study area - - Nepal (Terse) - -
C No. of areas of shortage 14 0 5 5 24
Population, 1980 (m.) 112 0 161 50 323
Study area Mali (South) - - - -
Total No. of areas of shortage 52 11 19 21 103
Population, 1980 (m.) 313 104 1,024 277 1,718
No. of areas surveyed 535 268 1,671 512 2,986

Source: Compiled by the International Development Centre of Japan from various FAO materials presented at the UN Conference on New and

Renewable Sources of Energy, August 1985.


A - Extreme shortage: minimum requirements cannot be met even by over-harvesting.

B - Shortage: minimum requirements can be met. but over-harvesting may result in extreme shortage in near future.

C - Shortage in future: production of fuelwood met demand in 1980, but will be short in 2000.

b. In the past, most people lived in the savanna areas, but when the population exceeded 20 persons/km, both fuelwood and food (crops and livestock) became short, owing to the low productivity of the forest. However. fuelwood is sufficient where abundant rainfall prevails. Per capita fuelwood demand in Africa is larger than that in Asia owing to different cooking methods.

c. The oil-producing countries do not use fuelwood. However, fuelwood consumption increases as oil consumption increases.

d. Fuelwood provides one-third of total energy in Asia. and as much as three-quarters in the Mekong countries and Nepal Animal dung and agricultural residuals are also used for both energy and fertilizer, in equal proportions.

e. Sufficient energy supply is maintained by hydropower. petroleum. and replanted forestry in the Andean countries, whereas the energy supply is inadequate in Central America and the Caribbean countries.

f. About 1.7 billion people were suffering from a shortage of fuelwood in 1980. It is predicted that this number will increase to 3 billion by 2000, and the energy situation will worsen.


Charcoal may be considered as an alternative to fuelwood where the forest resource is abundant. Charcoal has the merit of long-life storage and low-cost transportation for its smaller volume and weight (one-third to one-fifth those of fuelwood). Powdered charcoal can also be used as an insecticide and soil conditioner. Furthermore, comparing heat efficiency, charcoal gives out 7,000 kcal/g compared with 3,000 kcal/g from dry fuelwood and 1,000 kcal/g from green fuelwood. In Zambia, a package project, comprising an oval briquette and a clay charcoal stove, is being successfully implemented. On the other hand, in Nepal it is customary for only lower-class people to produce, sell, and utilize charcoal. Finding a way to comply with the culture and customs of the users is a first step for the success of a project. However, charcoal may be used widely in urban areas and more advanced areas in future.

Development of alternative energies

Alternative energies such as solar energy, wind energy, hydropower, and biogas are still far from meeting the large demands of rural energy, because of the immaturity of the technology and its high cost. In developing countries, the practical use of hydropower and thermal power as alternatives to fuelwood for domestic energy is limited. However, the use of kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for lighting and fuel, respectively, is increasing in urban areas because of their low cost, cleanness, and ease of use.

Fuelwood thermal power generation

According to an estimate by the Central Laboratory of Electrical Power in Japan, a fuelwood thermal power station of 50,000 kW capacity requires 5 kcal/g of wood as fuel. To provide fuelwood for this station, willow and poplar are planted on an area of 18,000 ha and one-eighth of that area is harvested each year. The cost of power generation is about Y10/kWh, which is comparable to the cost of a coal-fired power station (Y10/kWh) or an oil-fired power station (Y11/kWh). In addition, fuelwood is a renewable energy source, in contrast to coal and oil, so this seems a good alternative. However, in developing countries, it is not economical to use fuelwood thermal power for heat energy, because of large losses in transmitting electricity to distant areas in addition to the inherent loss in converting from heat energy to electrical energy and back to heat energy.

4. Sustainable fuelwood management

Basic problems of fuelwood resources

The IDCJ Mission concluded that reliable information and data on fuelwood are even more scarce than for slash-and-burn cultivation (year 1 of its study) and for overgrazing (year 2). The Mission failed to identify a clear-cut project exclusively for fuelwood harvesting. It should be recognized, therefore, that the lack of knowledge and data is one of the biggest constraints in fuelwood management.

It should also be recognized that one of the causes of forest degradation by fuelwood harvesting is a conflict among the following three viewpoints:

1. the farmer considers fuelwood harvesting to be his traditional right inherited from his ancestors;

2. governments stress the importance of forest management as part of the social and economic development of the country;

3. the global viewpoint insists on the importance of forests for the conservation of the global environment in the future.

Although fuelwood harvesting is normally a complement to industrial wood harvesting, because 50 per cent or more of the tree typically remains as a residue after logging operations, in some cases it is in competition with farm land, pasturage, and logging. People are so poor that the price of fuelwood needs to be in effect free of charge. It is therefore difficult to introduce alternative energy sources, such as kerosene and LPG, because they involve a cost. The only advantage of fuelwood as an energy source is its renewable nature, so fuelwood needs to be economical and environmentally friendly. Demand for it will increase, especially in developing countries not particularly blessed with natural resources.

Feasibility study and long-term development strategy

Since fuelwood management is a small part of forest management, it is imperative to confirm the feasibility of total land use (agriculture, pasturage, and forestry) and its conservation. The annual global growth rate of forest is calculated at 2.4-10.0 m/capita. This is enough to meet average fuelwood consumption and logging requirements of 2 m/capita. which varies from place to place. Forest management can be enhanced by planting carefully selected tree varieties and in carefully selected locations. The record indicates that production of 47 m/ha/year. may be possible in large-scale planting in the Sahel area, at a cost of US$1,000/ha. This is enough to meet the average demand for fuelwood, which should be reviewed by systematic monitoring and evaluation of existing social forestry programmes. This type of research is urgently needed in order to establish the feasibility of forest management in different climatic conditions and with different trees.

As mentioned above, the basic problems of fuelwood resources management are not yet solved. It is necessary to start a comprehensive research programme through international collaboration. For example, it is important to look at energy demand in relation to each energy source and at the status of fuelwood in the global macro economy; and also to determine the feasibility of large-scale and long-term programmes, such as a 50-100 per cent increase in production and a large-scale plantation programme. To develop these programmes, it is necessary to continue financial and institutional international cooperation for at least five years with a firm global political will based on the spirit of the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). In addition, technology innovation based on environmental science and public participation (research and training) is a core part of this proposal. As far as the Japanese government is concerned, it is necessary to cooperate with the FAO, the UN Development Programme, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, and other international agricultural research institutions, by increasing contributions to and funding for the Global Environmental Facility of the World Bank, as an essential follow-up to the UNCED.

Short-term strategy

As an immediate strategy, the Mission recommended the following programmes: (i) introduction of alternative commercial energy sources; (ii) construction of infrastructure for the transportation of fuelwood; (iii) improvement of the production techniques and marketing of charcoal; and (iv) introduction and dissemination of improved cooking stoves.

A sustainable biological system

Based on the experience of the short-term strategy and an interim review of the long-term strategy, it may be possible to work out an optimum combination of programmes for each area by considering cost, environment, and convenience. In order to find alternatives to slash-and-burn cultivation, a number of combinations of biological resources (trees, crops, animals, fish, and human beings) under given natural resources (topography, soil, and water) should be integrated. Figure 14.3 shows such an example. It may well be necessary first to build a minimum social and physical infrastructure to support farmers' daily life, particularly when the area is classified as extremely poor. It is important to draw from a number of research projects and experiments on the selected farming systems and their ecological cycles already undertaken by many international agricultural research centres and, where necessary, to conduct new pilot research. The best alternative would be determined as one, or a combination, of the following categories:

• upland (identification of appropriate farming systems, including agro-forestry, to maintain the physical and chemical properties of soil);

• lowland rice (rotation with legume crops to minimize chemical fertilizer application); and

• forestry (selection of high-value tree species suitable to the given topographic and climatic conditions).

Fig. 14.3 A sustainable biological system

It may not be sufficient to develop technically sustainable agricultural programmes, unless they are accompanied by attractive incentives to farmers. Sustainability in agriculture is largely dependent upon soil management, which involves both short- and long-term improvements. Unless security of tenure is assured, farmers have no incentive to replenish a depleted soil, because it requires a significant investment of money and time (which in certain cases may involve a decade or so). It is essential to take the following socio-economic and institutional factors into account when formulating a sustainable agriculture and rural development programme, because the existence of mass poverty is the main cause of environmental destruction: (i) governments should give their highest priority to "rural transformation," whereby the poorest farmers, including young people and women, are enabled to remain in rural areas; (ii) land tenure should be secure to encourage farmers to supply the necessary inputs; (iii) the farmer's workload should not be unduly heavy; (iv) the natural and economic risks of the programme should be minimized; (v) a reasonable income should be assured, enabling farmers to invest in agricultural resource management without being affected by government pricing policy; and (vi) marketing and transportation systems should be stable and reasonably assured.

5. Beyond the UNCED

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 1992, reached broad consensus between: development and the environment; the rich and the poor; and governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The highlights of the Rio Declaration are: (i) all people have equal rights to enjoy a healthy and productive life as the main actors in sustainable development in harmony with nature; (ii) there should be national sovereignty to utilize natural resources in accordance with its environmental and development policy without destroying environments in other countries; (iii) all nations should cooperate to eradicate poverty as an essential target in attaining sustainable development; (iv) priority should be given to the needs of the poorest developing countries suffering from environmental destruction; and (v) developed countries should assume international responsibility for sustainable development and provide technical and financial assistance. The Declaration also touched on: consumption and population control; NGOs' active participation; international law for compensation to the victims of environmental destruction; women's role; ethnic tribes' rights; and demilitarization.

I believe that poverty alleviation (or narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor) is the first step to solving environmental problems, including the crisis of rural energy in developing countries. Based on the broad consensus reached at the UNCED, realistic targets of socio-economic development in harmony with ecology should be sought. As one such indicative target, I have ventured to formulate a long-term projection of poverty alleviation in a programme with controlled population and GNP/capita growth rates, which could narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. I am fully aware of the fact that GNP per capita is not the best indicator of quality of life. However, in the absence of an internationally recognized best indicator, I decided to use it as the second-best indicator of growth. To establish a first approximation, I referred to the World Development Report 1991 (World Bank, 1991a). Out of 124 countries, 25 countries (19 OECD members, 3 oil producers, Israel, Hong Kong, and Singapore), with GNP per capita of US$6,000 or more, were classified as rich and the remaining 99 countries as poor. Their populations and GNP per capita in 1990 are summarized in table 14.4.

The three most important assumptions as regards reducing the disparity between the rich and the poor relate to: (i) the time needed to reach the goal; (ii) average population growth rate; and (iii) the target ratio of GNP per capita between the rich and the poor. First, I assumed that the target year should be 2040, which is long enough for development purposes and short enough from an environmental point of view. The population assumption is rather difficult. Records show that world population growth decreased from 2.1 per cent in 1965-1973 to 1.8 per cent in 1980-1990 and it is estimated at 1.6 per cent for the period 1990-2000. In view of these statistics, it would not be unreasonable to target 1.0 per cent as a 1990-2040 average, because in the 25 years 1970-1995 the rate fell by 0.5 per cent (from 2.1 to 1.6). Another encouraging example is Sri Lanka, where population growth, which averaged 2.8 per cent in the 1960s (very close to the magnitude in Africa today), fell during 1980-1990 to 1.5 per cent, and is expected to fall further to a little over 1 per cent in the 1990s.

Table 14.4 Population and GNP per capita in rich and poor countries, 1990

  Year 25 rich countries 99 poor countries Total
Population (million) 1990 900 4,100 5,000
Population growth (%/year) 1965 -1973 1.0 2.5 2.1
1980-1990 0.7 2.1 1.8
1990-2000 0.6 1.9 1.6
GNP per capita (US$) (weight) 1990 18,700 (23) 800 (1) 3,800
Total GNP (US$ billion) 1990 15,700 3,300 19,000

Source: World Bank (1991a).

As for the third assumption, it would be ideal to eliminate entirely the disparity between the rich and the poor by 2040. But it may not be realistic for the poor (US$800) to reach the rich's level (US$18,700) in 50 years, which would require an average annual growth rate close to 7 per cent, provided that the rich's growth rate remains zero for 50 years. After some trials, I reached the conclusion that the disparity in GNP per capita could be targeted to narrow from the present 23:1 to 10:1 in 2040. In this case, the annual average growth rate of GNP/capita would be 3.5 per cent for developing countries and 1.8 per cent for developed countries, which results in GNP/capita in 2040 being US$45,000 for developed countries and US$4,500 for developing countries. If the population growth rate (1.1 per cent for developing countries and 0.6 per cent for developed countries) is added, the necessary GNP growth rate per year would be 4.6 per cent for developing countries and 2.4 per cent for developed countries. The average global GNP growth rate would be 3.0 per cent, which is exactly the same figure as required to achieve sustainable development given in the Bruntland Report. The results of the calculation are summarized in table 14.5. This seems to be an appropriate aim and could be achieved, though it would not be at all easy.

In reality, the trends in economic and population growth will be quite diverse among developing countries. For example, some developing countries may develop quite rapidly and could be in the range of "developed" countries in 2040, and some may not. Thus, the results of this simple calculation are neither to represent the huge, complex, and dynamic process of development, which is beyond the scope of my study, nor to argue that the optimum level of disparity between the rich and the poor is 10: 1. Rather, the heart of the issue here is to delineate rough relationships between population and GNP per capita, if the primary goal is to narrow the disparity. It is my conclusion that neither the planned economy nor the market economy is capable of overcoming this complex problem in relation to population, growth, and poverty, which human society is already facing. We may well need a new philosophy of a "strategically planned market economy" in the twenty-first century.

Table 14.5 Proposed population and GNP per capita, 1990 and 2040




Proposed annual



growth (%)

GNP growth (%)

Population (million)        
  Total 5,000 8,200a 1.0  
  Developed 900 1,100 0.6  
  Developing 4,100 7,100 1.1  
GNP/capita (US$)        
  Total 3,800 10,000 2.0 3.0
  Developed 18,700 (23) 45,000 (10) 1.8 2.4
  Developing 800 (1) 4,500 (1) 3.5 4.6
  World total GNP(US$ trillion) 19.0 82.0 3.0  

a. This target may still be ambitious, when compared with the prediction by the UN Fund for Population Activities of 6.4 billion (2001). 8.5 billion (2025), and 10.0 billion (2050).


FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization). 1953,1958,1963. World Forestry Inventory. Rome: FAO.

Mather, A. S. 1990. Global Forest Resources. Portland, Oreg.: Timber. Translated by Minoru Kumazaki.

Montalembert, M. R. de and J. Cleent. 1983. Fuelwood Supplies in the Developing Countries. Rome: FAO Forestry Paper 42.

WCED (World Commission on Environment and Development). 1987. Our Common Future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

World Bank. 1991a. World Development Report 1991. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

World Bank. 1991b. Forestry Sector Policy Paper. Washington, D.C.

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