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Oxford Programme on Fertility, Education & the Environment

Education, Fertility and the Environment

Max world population will reach somewhere between 6 and 15 billion by 2100 according to the UN. The High variant 15 billion is generally recognised to place significant strain on the earth’s resources. The Medium variant 10 billion will be better but will still require a significant increase in the requirement for food, fresh water, energy and minerals. World population growth over the rest of the century will be focused in Africa, responsible for 2 billion of the predicted extra 3 billion under the medium variant scenario.

In addition rapid population growth and high fertility threaten the well-being of individuals and communities in the poorest developing countries. While Family Planning/Sexual and Reproductive Health programmes have made significant advances globally in helping women achieve the family size they desire, in some parts of the world, in particular sub-Saharan Africa, fertility decline is slowing or even stalling. It is now widely recognised that we need more understanding of the drivers behind the uptake of family planning methods, and in particular the role that education and environment can play.

Programme of Work

There is currently growing awareness of the need to address the unmet need for family planning with several large initiatives underway, for example the USAID Pathfinder International Programme and the Gates Institute’s Advanced Family Planning Project. None of these initiatives however place education as the key driver of fertility reduction, nor have taken into account the role of environmental change and the impact this is having on women’s reproductive choices.

The Programme:

  • Collates and develops research which emphasises the key importance of education as a driver of fertility reduction and the necessity of placing this at the centre of fertility reduction programmes.
  • Collates and develops research which emphasises the growing importance of environmental change as a factor in household reproductive decision making, and the increasing necessity of introducing this component into fertility reduction programmes.
  • At the research level the programme provides clear high quality evidence of the need to combine family planning with education, and builds the evidence base for the role of the environment.
  • At the global and regional level the programme recruits prominent spokespersons to advocate global support and further funding.
  • At the national level the programme identifies key country networks, bodies and champions who are aiming for political commitment.
  • At the community and institutional level the programme recruits local support and addresses local barriers to implementation.

Core Team

Professor Sarah Harper CBE
Professor Jaco Hoffman
Kenneth Howse
Professor George Leeson
Nana Nanitashvili