Catch a Glimpse of Kenya

Image from The Hunter Legacy Film, courtesy of Hunter Sykes

            Years ago I met Dr. Rhodes Moicombo in the little African country, Swaziland (now “Eswatini”). When he learned about my interests, he told me how he had promoted family planning in Kenya.

            Right after medical school, Moicombo worked in a rural area of Kenya that had never had modern healthcare. He understood that he needed to win the respect of his future patients so came up with an idea. Knowing how much Kenyans prize children, he planned a demonstration of his medical skill using the kids. He set up shop under a large tree in the center of town and gave kids candy-flavored worm medicine. Parents were amazed and delighted the next day to find worms in their children’s poop!

            After Moicombo had established trust with his worm medicine, he started talking with the mothers about the advantages of family planning. I don’t know what methods were available to women then, but overall Kenya has been successful in lowering its fertility rate in the past half century.

            Back in the 1960s Kenya was one of the fastest growing countries in the world, with a Total Fertility Rate (the number of children that a woman bore) of about 8. Although much lower now, the TFR is still high at just over 3 children.

            Kenya had their census last year and we are just starting ours. A subscriber to Population Matters!, David Zarembka, has lived in Kenya for many years and his wife is Kenyan. Some of his recent blogs treat the results of the 2019 census.

            There are problems in getting accurate census data in any country, so it’s not surprising that the Kenyan 2009 census was marked by some “irregularities”. One of the purposes of a census is to allocate government funds. Knowing this, some enumerators (census workers) in the 2009 Kenyan census “padded” the numbers, so their region would get more money. There may have been a million “ghost” people who didn’t really exist! The Kenyan government made changes to prevent this sort of fraud in 2019. Enumerators came from outside the community, and a local “elder” accompanied each. The result of last year’s census was significantly lower than expected. There were 47.5 million Kenyans on the night of August 24, 2019.

            Zarembka is optimistic that Kenya’s growth rate is slowing. He writes: “As I look around Kenya… I notice that very few teenagers are now giving birth – one of the prerequisites for a fall in the birth rate.”

           It will be interesting to see what the USA 2020 census will bring. We know that our country’s TFR is less than replacement, but our population will continue to grow due to population momentum and immigration. Even in the USA there are difficulties in getting an accurate count, since there are some groups who want to go under the radar—undocumented migrants are an example.

            Kenya is an example of what can be done to slow population growth. Moicombo was a pioneer in introducing family planning in one area, and recently I met another innovator. Dr. Charles Ochieng is a general physician in Nairobi whose passion is providing vasectomy care. He even offered to do his father’s vasectomy for free, but was turned down. His father already has 7 children with his new wife!

            Because I’m limiting my travel due to concern about climate change, I’ll probably never visit Kenya. However, I just watched a wonderful movie, The Hunter Legacy; perhaps some of you saw it at the Durango Independent Film Festival. In addition to world-class pictures of the beautiful people, scenery and wildlife, it tells important stories. Because of rapidly increasing population, especially in the past, humans have destroyed much of the wildlife. Hundreds of animals were killed in the past to make room for settlements. We have plowed much of the wildlife habitat into agricultural fields and ­­­­­­­poachers continue to the slaughter the animals.

            The Hunter Legacy demonstrates ways of protecting wildlife using armed guards, aerial surveillance and fences to keep animals away from settlements. It also stresses the importance of slowing population growth with family planning and education.

            The movie is about J.A. Hunter, a Scot who lived up to his name as a professional hunter, cleared the land of wildlife for human settlement. The film says this about Mr. Hunter: “J.A. Hunter lived for more than 50 years in East Africa. During that time, he shifted from a focus on hunting towards a belief in conservation as concerns about wildlife populations intensified.”

            The film was made by Hunter Sykes, who lives in Durango. You can view the film at:

© Richard Grossman MD, 2020



Take this Survey

            Most surveys that come online seem to just be gimmicks to get me interested in a cause, then ask me for money. This survey won’t ask for money—just for your opinion on human population, consumption and endangered species.

            The Center for Biological Diversity has more people working on issues of human population than any other environmental organization in the USA. They are also working on sustainability, a closely related goal. It is estimated that a human population of 2 or 3 billion could be sustained by our planet’s resources. Of course, with a current population of 7 3/4 billion people we are far into overshoot.

The main thrust of the Center is to protect Earth’s biological diversity. They have their work cut out for them. According to a recent report from the UN, an estimated million species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction in the coming decades!

The Center uses the Endangered Species Act to protect imperiled plants and animals in the USA. Their chief strategy is to protect the habitat that these species need. There is also a large group working on climate law; remember that the climate crisis is caused by overpopulation (and overconsumption). Climate change is anthropogenic, and is one of the major factors causing loss of species.

Fortunately, the Center has recognized the connection between extinction of species and human population. I keep wondering why all environmental organizations don’t see this relationship. Are they afraid that they will lose supporters? Or do religious groups pressure the environmentalists to not wander into the field of contraception and abortion?

Seven years ago, the Center for Biological Diversity surveyed people to determine their attitudes on population. Currently they are performing a similar survey now to see if attitudes have changed, and they would like your input. Some of the current questions are the same as in 2013; it will be interesting to see if the answers are different.

Here is an example of a question from the first survey that was not repeated in the 2nd:

“Have you personally seen human population growth harming the environment, or not?”

Almost half of 657 respondents (who were all registered voters) said that they had seen this effect on the environment, and the same percentage responded that they had not.

            Here is a question from the old survey that is repeated in the current one:

“If widespread wildlife extinctions were unavoidable without slowing human population growth, do you think our society has a moral responsibility to address the problem, or not?”

In 2013 sixty percent of people responded “yes” to this question, 31% said “no” and 8% were “not sure”. It will be interesting to see if there is a shift in people’s answers to this question.

            Here’s some information for social science geeks: The 2013 survey was done by landline telephone and contacted a random sample of registered voters. The current methodology is different. It is online, and will have two samples. One is randomly selected and the other is a convenience sample—people like you and me who were not randomly selected. The Center plans to report out the findings of these two samples separately.

If you live in the USA and would like to take the survey, here is the url: 

I also recommend checking out the Center’s population programs. First go to, then click on “Programs” at the top. As you scroll down the “Population and Sustainability” page you will see several links, including to their Endangered Species Condoms. There’s a place to sign up for Pop X, the monthly newsletter “…that examines the connection between unsustainable human population, overconsumption and the extinction of plants and animals around the world.”

My purpose for writing these essays on population hasn’t changed much in the past 25 years. I want to stay positive, since limiting one’s fertility is already a goal of millions of women both here and worldwide. Another goal is to present people with actions they can take to slow population growth. Most of all, I want to keep human population in people’s minds as an issue with a solution. The Center’s survey will help me and them learn what people are thinking about population. I will be able to target my essays more accurately. The Center doesn’t want to be the sole environmental organization working in the field of population. The survey will help them understand better how to get more members of the environmental community to consider population when addressing the extinction crisis.

© Richard Grossman MD, 2020