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Population and Development I Human and Economic Geography




The scientific study of human population is referred as to demography. It covers its growth, density, distribution and movement as well as the aspects of economic and social development.


Population is related to the development process and the environment. This is because it is itself a reproductive resource that transforms the environmental resources so as to bring about development. As such, population is both the means and goal of all development. Thus, it requires essential services like education, law and order. As a resource, it provides the labour force, especially when skilled, so as to be used in the production process in various sectors of the economy.


Population can have negative effects on development especially when there is low education and technology and overpopulation that lead to poor or excessive resource utilization as well as under population which lead to under utilization of some resources, etc.


Hence, in planning for development, adequate knowledge of major population aspects is needed. These include population characteristics ‘such as size, composition, and distribution; population control factors such as fertility, mortality and migration; and the impact of population change on resources such as land, water, vegetation and air.



1. Human population refers to the group of people occupying or residing in a certain geographical unit.

2. Population size refers to the total number of people in the country. This may change over time due to dynamic components like births, deaths and migration. Population size is obtained through censuses.

3. Population distribution refers to the way in which people are spread out across the earth’s surface. Also, it can be defined as the occurrence or non occurrence of people in certain geographical units. Distribution is uneven and changes over periods of time.

4. Population density refers to the ratio between the number of people and a given area, which they are occupying, or number of people per unit area.



Population has the following general characteristics:

1. Unevenly distributed over the surface so that some areas have low density, others have medium density and some areas have high-density population. Other areas have no population at all and are referred to as non—ecumene.

Ecumene is a term used by geographers to mean inhabited land. It generally refers to land where people have made their permanent home, and to all work areas that are considered occupied and used for agricultural or any other economic purpose.


2. Population is dynamic in the sense that it is migratory as people move from one place to another, either permanently or temporarily, depending on the prevailing conditions.

Also population changes in terms of number. It tends to increase in some places and decrease in other places. The developing countries are marked by rapid population growth while in the developed countries population growth is very slow or almost stationary. Population change is caused by either a natural increase due to births, a natural decrease through deaths or an artificial increase due to in-migration or immigration; artificial decrease due to out- migration or emigration. 


3. Population has the age—sex structure. This refers to the composition or proportion of the population in terms of sex, age, occupation etc. Population structure varies from country to country such that in the developing countries there are more children than young adults, hence there is a high dependency ratio, while in the developed countries there are fewer children than young adults and hence there is a low dependency ratio. Age structure is important since it influences employment patterns as well as public expenditure. Population structure also shows the sex ratio. This is defined as the number of males per 100 females. The sex ratio is not balanced in the world. For example in Africa on the whole there are more women than men and this is a consequence of out-migration or in-migration of only one sex group. In urban areas there are more males per 100 females because more young men migrate to cities than young women, while in rural areas there are more young females (e.g. in Moshi rural areas) because of the movement of young males to the cities and towns. 


4. Population is characterized by variation in the level of development and technology. Some countries are more developed due to the use of advanced technology such as Japan, America and France, while other countries are less developed or poor due to the use of low technology like Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique. 


5. Population usually faces problems like diseases such as HIV— AIDS, environmental calamities like famine, floods, earthquakes and environmental pollution 




Population distribution is the way in which people are spread over space or the occurrence or non-occurrence of people in a certain area. Population distribution varies from place to place so that some places are have many people and other places have few or no people at all (Is unevenly distributed). Generally, the inhabited areas of the world’s land surface are called ECUMENE and uninhabited or sparsely populated areas are referred to as NON — ECUMENE. 


Population density refers to the ratio between the number of people and the area they occupy. Like distribution, population density varies from place to place. Population density can be distinguished as high density (200 persons per square kilometre and above), medium density (100 to 200 persons per square kilometre) and low or sparse density (less than 100 persons per square kilometre). 

Examples of areas which are densely populated are The Nile Valley in Egypt because of water availability and fertile soil in the valley, the Ganges valley in India due to flat, extensive and low—lying undulating areas with fertile soils, The highlands of Tanzania like the Southern slopes of mount Kilimanjaro and the (Chagga land) due to fertile volcanic soils and high rainfall, North - West Europe like the Netherlands due to reliable, evenly distributed rainfall, mild temperatures and fertile soils, etc. 

Areas with sparse population are the deserts like the Sahara and Kalahari, rugged fold mountains like the Andes, Amazonia and Canadian Shield due to dense forests, Scottish highlands and the Lake District due to poor soils.
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Category: High School level | Added by: Admin (22/Jun/2017) | Author: Yahya Mohamed E W
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