Rapid population growth in developing countries is central to most of the pressing problems and is a serious challenge to human destiny. As the population increases fast, demands for food, healthcare and housing also increase in the same or faster pace hence efforts to provide/improve social services to citizens should have population management as a key feature.


Why the ‘Big Four ‘Agenda?

In December 2017, His Excellency the President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta announced a new plan, the ‘Big Four’ that would guide the development agenda of the country from 2018 to 2022. It focused on basic needs that are critical in raising the standard of living of Kenyans and promoting a strong inclusive economic growth as the country moves towards becoming an upper middle-income country by 2030. These are;

  1. Food and nutritional security
  2. Universal and Affordable healthcare
  3. Affordable and decent housing
  4. Manufacturing to create more employment

How and why did the President come up with these goals? The goals are grounded in the 2010 Constitution of Kenya which recognizes adequate food and nutrition, healthcare and housing as human rights in Articles 43(for all citizens) and 53(for children).

Agriculture is the backbone of the Kenyan economy but food production has been declining while food imports are increasing in recent years such that more and more money is spent to import food rather than on other priorities. Health and housing were viewed as foundations for the national change under the Vision 2030. 

Health is a key pillar in population and development and also in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but good health is a complex state that will require multiple strategies towards prevention of disease, staff to provide services, equipment and technology to correctly diagnose and treat health challenges, environmental changes and access to affordable healthcare. The World health Organization (WHO) views health not just as absence of disease or weakness but as a state of complete physical, mental and social well being.

Manufacturing is one of the six sectors that were identified in the economic pillar of Vision 2030 as having potential to contribute to the desired high economic growth and increasing the share of manufactured exports was a focus in the Second Kenya Vision 2030 Medium Term Plan of 2013-2017.


What role will population issues play in achieving the ‘Big Four’?

Rapid growth of population is very closely linked with poverty and puts strains on food, land and housing. The more people there are in Kenya, the more food, housing, jobs and healthcare that is needed.

Population growth and climate change are two sides of a coin and rapid population growth may very likely bring about destruction of the environment which comes with climate change.

People will cut down trees with abandon for fuel and income leaving the land dry and bare as has happened in the Mau Forest.

Photo courtesy of The Business Daily


Food insecurity is brought about by among other factors, the fast increasing population densities (number of people living within a km2 ). The heavy population densities in rural areas result in small farm sizes as households subdivide their land to accommodate more and more people. Hence the rising food shortage can be minimised with concerted efforts to moderate population growth to slow it down to guarantee food security for all Kenyans in the long term. Food security will include availability of food all the time, access to the available food, safety and nutritional value and food stability (no sudden shortages).

Rapid population growth has also led to increased demand for adequate and affordable housing especially in the fast expanding urban areas leading to more and more informal settlements where basic services like food, water and sanitation and energy are scarce.

The growth of the labor force (population aged 15-64 years) heavily depends on the structure of population. Interaction between population growth and unemployment is more acute among nations with younger populations and Kenya with 43% of the total population under 15 years is affected by high levels of unemployment. Creation of more jobs should thus move alongside programs to manage population so as to ensure sustainable employment opportunities for Kenyans.

Evidence from many studies has found that reducing unwanted births helps to reduce poverty and initiatives to promote women education and reproductive health can contribute to a moderate population where use of resources will be balanced. A few years of basic education for girls and women will encourage smaller families which will make it easier to end hunger and prevent malnutrition because agriculture and food systems will not be strained and can ensure lasting food security and better health for families, communities and eventually the nation.

  Health and happiness or poverty?



Given the relatively high birth rates and a high proportion of young people, Kenya’s population growth is likely to continue to undermine poverty alleviation and economic growth and consequently outpace investments in health, education and other basic services. Success in the management of population will certainly determine whether Kenya can achieve the ‘Big Four’ prospects. If we don’t slow down the rate of population growth by focusing on reproductive health, we shall be faced with more severe shortage of land for food production, irreversible destruction of the environment, runaway unemployment and consequently poverty, ever increasing informal settlements and poor health.

There is great need therefore, to mainstream population management in the implementation of the ‘Big Four’ Agenda for Kenya


Author: Wambui Kungu – Programme Coordination, Monitoring & Evaluation
Email: wkungu@ncpd.go.ke