This Working Paper is part of a study which aims to relate long term environmental change, population growth and technological change, and to identify the policies and institutions which are conducive to sustainable development. The first stage, published in these Working Papers, is to measure and assess as precisely as the evidence allows the changes that have occurred in the study area, the semi-arid Machakos District, Kenya, over a period of six decades. Degradation of its natural resources was evoking justifiable concern in the 1930s and 1940s. By several measures it is now in a more sustainable state, despite a five-fold increase in population. A long-term perspective is essential, since temporary factors, such as a run of poor rainfall years, can confuse analysis of change if only a few years are considered. The study is developing a methodology for incorporating historical, physical, social and economic data in an integrated assessment.
The aim of the population profile is to describe the rapid growth in the population of Machakos District since 1930, which has led to a more than fivefold increase by 1990.