Ester Böserup

Ester Böserup

Ester Boserup (May 18, 1910 - September 24, 1999), born "Ester Børgesen", was a Danish economist and writer. She studied economical and agricultural development, worked at the United Nations as well as other international organizations and she wrote several books. Her most notable book is "The Conditions of Agricultural Growth: The Economics of Agrarian Change under Population Pressure" (Chicago, Aldine, 1965, ISBN 0-415-31298-1). This book presented a "dynamic analysis embracing all types of primitive agriculture." In doing so, she upended the assumption dating back to Malthus’s time (and still held in many quarters) that agricultural methods determine population (via food supply). Instead, she shows that population determines agricultural methods. A major point of her book is that "necessity is the mother of invention". She also made an important influence on the role of women in workforce and human development, which then gave better opportunities of work and education for women.

<>Malthus’ theory says that the size and growth of the population depends on the food supply and agricultural methods. But on the other hand Boserup’s theory opposes this by saying that the agricultural methods depend on the size of the population. Malthus states that in times when food is not sufficient for everyone, the extra people will have to die, nevertheless, Boserup states that in those times of pressure people will find out ways to increase the productivity of food by increasing workforce, machinery, fertilizers, etc.This graph shows how the rate of food supply may vary but never reaches its carrying capacity because every time it is getting near, there is an invention or development that causes the food supply to increase.

Both Malthus and Boserup can be right because Malthus refers to the environmental limits while Boserup refers to cultural and technological issues.Fact|date=June 2008

She argued that when population density is low enough to allow it, land tends to be usedintermittently, with heavy reliance on fire to clear fields and fallowing to restore fertility (often called slash and burn farming). Numerous studies have shown such methods to be favourable in total workload and also efficiency (output versus input). In Boserup’s theory, it is only when rising population density curtails the use of fallowing (and therefore the use of fire) that fields are moved towards annual cultivation. Contending with insufficiently fallowed, less fertile plots, covered with grass or bushes rather than forest, mandates expanded efforts at fertilizing, field preparation, weed control, and irrigation. These changes often induce agricultural innovation but increase marginal labour cost to the farmer as well: the higher the rural population density, the more hours the farmer must work for the same amount of produce. Therefore workloads tend to rise while efficiency drops. This process of raising production at the cost of more work at lower efficiency is what Boserup describes as "agricultural intensification".

The theory has been instrumental in understanding agricultural patterns in developing countries, although it is highly simplified and generalized.

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Malthus’ theory says that the size and growth of the population depends on the food supply and agricultural methods. But on the other hand Boserup’s theory opposes this by saying that the agricultural methods depend on the size of the population. Malthus states that in times when food is not sufficient for everyone, the extra people will have to die, nevertheless, Boserup states that in those times of pressure people will find out ways to increase the productivity of food by increasing workforce, machinery, fertilizers, etc.This graph shows how the rate of food supply may vary but never reaches its carrying capacity because every time it is getting near, there is an invention or development that causes the food supply to increase.

Both Malthus and Boserup can be right because Malthus refers to the environmental limits while Boserup refers to cultural and technological issues.Fact|date=June 2008

She argued that when population density is low enough to allow it, land tends to be usedintermittently, with heavy reliance on fire to clear fields and fallowing to restore fertility (often called slash and burn farming). Numerous studies have shown such methods to be favourable in total workload and also efficiency (output versus input). In Boserup’s theory, it is only when rising population density curtails the use of fallowing (and therefore the use of fire) that fields are moved towards annual cultivation. Contending with insufficiently fallowed, less fertile plots, covered with grass or bushes rather than forest, mandates expanded efforts at fertilizing, field preparation, weed control, and irrigation. These changes often induce agricultural innovation but increase marginal labour cost to the farmer as well: the higher the rural population density, the more hours the farmer must work for the same amount of produce. Therefore workloads tend to rise while efficiency drops. This process of raising production at the cost of more work at lower efficiency is what Boserup describes as "agricultural intensification".

The theory has been instrumental in understanding agricultural patterns in developing countries, although it is highly simplified and generalized.

Case study: Mauritius

Mauritius is an island county of 1860 km2 in area, located off the East coast of Africa. Farming and fishing are its main ventures, with agriculture accounting for 10% of its GDP. This is comprehensible since it has fertile soils and a tropical climate. It exports are divided into four main categories: sugar (accounting for 32%), garments (accounting for 31%), plastics (accounting for 32%) and others (accounting for 5%.)

Its population in 1992 was of 1,094,000 people. For 2025, the estimated population was of 1,365,000. This would mean a growth rate of 1.45% with a doubling time of 47 years. Its fertility rate was of 2.17 children per woman. Mauritius’ population growth over time can be represented by the following graph:

It is possible to notice how uneven population growth has been in Mauritius. At first it was a maintained at a more or less constant level because there were almost equal values of birth and death rates. Around the 1950s the birth rate increased significantly (from 35 per thousand to more than 45 per thousand). The death rate declined from 30 to 15 per thousand shortly afterwards.

The rate of natural increase was very great and there was a great pressure on the country for resources because of this increasing population. It was then that the government had to intervene. It promoted family planning, restricted early marriage, provided improved health care and looked to improve the status of women. The government also worked on diversifying agriculture, invested in industry and improved trading links (because it had been a UK colony, it was democratic and quite ‘westernised’.)

With time there were changes in general attitude toward family size and people were getting married later on. As well, there was an improvement in educational and work opportunities for women (in 1975 employment of women was 22.3%, by 1990 had increased to 35.75%). Many trans national companies came to Mauritius because of tax incentives, the Freeport at Port Luis, the large number of educated residents, a considerable amount of cheap labour and the good transportation means present.
This would assert to us Boserup’s theory that “necessity is the mother of invention.” Because the population had risen, the government had to take measures to adapt to this growth. It had to improve and diversify agriculture, so proving agricultural intensification and that “population growth causes agricultural growth.” (This idea is presented in The Conditions of Agricultural Growth: The Economics of Agrarian Change under Population Pressure; 1965.) It also suggests that a country must improve its technology to be able to support the growing population and that many technologies will not be taken advantage of if the population is not large enough. (These ideas are presented in Population and Technological Change: A Study of Long-term Trends; 1981) Mauritius had to build a Freeport and improve transportation to be able to maintain its population.

Gender studies

Ester Boserup also complemented the discourse surrounding development practises with her 1970 work "Woman's Role in Economic Development" (London, Earthscan, 1970, ISBN 1-85383-040-2). The work is "the first investigation ever undertaken into what happens to women in the process of economic and social growth throughout the Third World". According to the foreword in the 1989 edition by Dr. Swasti Mitter, "It is [Boserup's] committed and scholarly work that inspired the UN Decade for Women between 1975 and 1985, and that has encouraged aid agencies to question the assumption of gender neutrality in the costs as well as in the benefits of development". .

External links

* [http://media.tiscali.co.uk/images/ch/reference/encyclopaedia/countryfacts/maps/large/00001701.gif]
* [http://www.sln.org.uk/geography/TOPS/population%20case%20study%20mauritius.ppt] [http://www.answers.com/topic/b-serup-model?cat=technology]
* [http://eh.net/bookreviews/library/federico]
* [http://artsci.wustl.edu/~anthro/research/56s48cpg.pdf]
* [http://www.pupilvision.com/lowersixth/kgp2-9/boserup.htm]


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