Population Control Policies
Egypt's population is very large in relation to the country's natural resources. Although it is not a perfect measure of the impact of high population growth rates, the amount of land cultivated by the average farmer provides a glimpse at the extent of the problem. In slightly more than 150 years (1821-1976), the per capita cultivated area dropped from 0.8 feddan to 0.27 feddan among the rural population. If the urban population is included, the per capita cultivated area in 1976 amounted to only 0.15 feddan. The decline has meant that the same amount of cultivated land must feed a continuously increasing population. In 1974 Egypt, which had been a net exporter of cereals for centuries, became a net importer of food, especially grains.
As early as 1959, government economists expressed concern about the negative impact of high population growth rates on the country's development efforts. In 1966 the government initiated a nationwide birth control program aimed at reducing the annual population growth rate to 2.5 percent or less. Since then staterun family planning clinics have distributed birth control information and contraceptives. These programs were somewhat successful in reducing the population growth rate, but in 1973 the rate began to increase again. Population control policies tended to be ineffective because most Egyptians, especially in rural areas, valued large families.
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