Global South Project Priorities

GAIA Initiative’s fundamental concern is that planetary human populations are the primary contributor to global warming /climate change. Each human – rich or poor – contributes to our global carbon-footprint.

Regional Project Categories: GAIA Initiative awards 32 grants each year in two funding cycles. In Fall 2022 there will be 16 grant awards of which 8 grants are to be designated for Global South projects. Our two regional project categories – Global South and Global North – are based upon what is generally understood to be the economic developmental stage of nations or regions. The project priorities set forth in this web page relate to less-developed nations of the Global South region. 

Global South:

Less-Developed Economies with High Growth Human Populations

The Global South humans living in less-developed economies are currently a minor environmental driver of global warming /climate change. However, the explosive growth in some regions of the Global South will in the future contribute an ever-greater proportion to our global carbon-footprint.

The different experiences of some less-developed countries – in Asia, Latin America, and Africa – demonstrate the unevenness in fertility changes predicted by Demographic Transition Theory. During the period 1960 to 2005 – with the introduction of efforts at modernization and family planning services – these regions demonstrated significant differences in the decline of their very high fertility rates: In the Asian and Latin American less-developed countries, there was a decline of 61 percent; however, in the 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa, the rate of change was much lower – a decline of 37 percent.

Global South Nations with Extreme High Birth Rate (births per 1000)

The explosive growth in sub-Saharan nations continues to the present – the population doubling in just 26 years from 1994 to 2020. The most disturbing result of the persistently high sub-Saharan Africa fertility rates is tragic deficits in personal and social well being: pervasive dire poverty, high disease-burden, low educational attainment, and low future prospects for much-needed economic development.


Interaction of Economic Development and Population Growth Trends

  • In nations with less-developed economies the per capita carbon footprint is very small.
  • In less-developed nations with a lack of basic infrastructure, there is little chance of a vibrant diverse economy. There are not roads, bridges, or other network support for efficient land, water, and air transport. There is not universal access to even basic public services: water, electricity, waste management, health care, children’s education. There is a lack of consumer goods and modern conveniences associated with 21st century living. A substantial portion of the population lives in dire poverty.
  • There are tragic personal well being deficits from pervasive poverty: in the 48 sub-Saharan nations 87% of the 10-year olds can not read and 40% of the population live at the meager subsistence level of less than $1.90 per day. 
  • While the cumulative carbon footprint is small in less-developed economies – this is not because of a cultural ethos of low consumption, but as the result of lower development, fewer consumer choices, and pervasive poverty. 
  • Despite the widespread material deprivation of the the 48 sub-Saharan nations, the population has increased dramatically – doubling from 568 million to 1.136 billion in the last 26 yrs. 
  • Global South cities are experiencing tremendous growth – from rural-urban migration and also as a result of sustained very high birthrates. SubSaharan Africa now has 44 cities with over one million population – all with pervasive poverty and lack of basic public services.  
  • Based on the significantly high population growth recent past, the future projection is for continued high population output in the Global South; This portends significant threats both to the region’s political stability as protests emerge from deficits in basic public services.

When in the future there is economic growth as is hoped for – built-out infrastructure, diverse industry, larger scale agriculture, universal public services, and available consumer goods – the expanded populations will surely have explosive growth in per capita carbon output. The combined trends in the Global South of future high population growth and future increases in per capita consumption portend a significant added threat to a sustainable balance between humans and the rest of the life forms on planet earth.


Grant Funding Priorities

Global South Projects

GAIA Grants focus on four broad areas related to reproductive health services: education, media, public policy, and shaping attitudes about family planning. The ultimate goal is to demonstrate the social value across cultures of having fewer children per family.

Organizations that are focused on the effects of population on the long-term sustainability of the planet are aware of the primary challenges of family planning in less-developed nations: to encourage the delay of having the first child; to explain the advantage of more years of spacing between births; and, to achieve an understanding of the personal and familial benefits of having fewer children per family.

Our GAIA Initiative encourages project proposals that explore how to more effectively provide education and other support to foster women’s ability to have more control of their lives. We are especially interested in projects that address the range of cultural issues that exclude young women from deciding about their childbearing: when to begin, how frequently, and how many children to have. Most women will – when given the option – choose to have fewer children who are healthier, more educated, with brighter future prospects in life.

Consideration of Project Proposals by the Grants Review Committee: Organizations interested in any of these areas are encouraged to think of creative innovative approaches – to propose projects that are bold and even experimental – to consider whether there are ideas with a potential to make a difference that other funding sources might be reluctant to support. Special consideration will be given to project proposals that address the above designated “Grant Funding Priorities for Global South Projects” or the following descriptive “Global South Issue-Maps.”

_____ Global South Issue-Maps _____

These nine descriptive Issue-Maps illustrate negative impacts associated with high-population-growth and serve to explain our rationale for the funding priority designation for projects that address one or more of these topics in sub-Saharan Africa

(1) High Long-term Poverty: GDP per capita. (Poorest Global South nations shown in light green – income as low a $2 per person per day) The ability of national governments in developing nations to provide a full range of services – including health care and education – to their inhabitants is limited by the low revenue base from industrial and personal sources of taxes and fees. Some nations in the region have abundant natural resources that generate significant revenues, but the map confirms the pervasive poverty that exists even in these resource-rich nations. Source: Population Reference Bureau 2020.


(2) Extreme High Birthrate in High Poverty nations: births per 1000 persons. (Highest Global South birthrate nations shown in dark blue at 42-50 births are four-times higher than Europe/US rates at 9-11 births). Source: CIA World Factbook 2020.


(3) Low Economic Growth Rate in High Poverty nations 2020 – 2030: this variable projects the change in “real GDP per capita” using the projected GDP growth rate adjusted for inflation and population growth. The map shows the great majority of sub-Saharan nations to have negative economic prospects – losses in real GDP in the next decade of up to 10 percent due to population growth exceeding national GDP growth. Tragically per capita income is projected to slip backwards toward ever more dire poverty. (Lowest real GDP per capita nations shown in gray at minus 10 percent; in medium blue at zero growth). Source: Tne Conference Board Global Economic Outlook 2021


(4) Extreme High Proportion of Young Dependent Children: Of total national population, the percentage of dependent children 14 yrs of age or younger; a high proportion of children creates high need for health care, education, and support services that poor nations are incapable of satisfying. Furthermore, child-dominant populations create “momentum” for sustained population growth in the next generation – even if births-per-woman are reduced. (Highest national-cohort of “dependent children14-yrs of age and under” shown in dark blue at 41 to 51 percent of total population; over two-times higher than Europe/US rates at 12 to18 percent) Source: Population Reference Bureau 2020.


(5) Extreme Low Use of Modern Contraceptives: Of total women age 15 to 49 yrs, the percentage using modern contraceptives. In Sub-Saharan Africa nations in 2019, fewer than 15 percent of married women of reproductive age use a modern method. (Lowest national rate of use-of-modern-contraceptive shown in light-gray at less than 15%; medium-gray at 15 to 29%; US/Europe at over 60%) Source: Population Reference Bureau 2019.


(6) Expressed Desire not-to-be-pregnant yet using no contraceptive: Of total women age 15 to 49 yrs who express a desire to stop or delay childbearing, a significant percentage are not using any method of contraception. A recent study found an estimated 225 million women in developing regions had an unmet need for modern contraception; yet of this total, 160 million were using no contraceptive method. The reasons are varied and complex and include: limited access, religious or patriarchal discouragement, and cultural misinformation. In another survey – 23% say that they or others close to them oppose contraception and 26% were concerned for contraceptive side effects. This map represents Demand for family planning satisfied with modern methods. (Lowest rate of satisfied demand -shown in red at less than 50%; green at above 75%) Source: United Nations 2017.


(7) Low Secondary School Education (Boys and Girls) in Global South nations: percentage enrollment in secondary school of all age-eligible children (Lowest national-children’s-enrollment-rate at less than 20% enrolled of all children – shown in lightest-green; light-medium green at 20 to 30 percent of all children). Source: UNESCO Institute 2020.


(8) Low Girls Education in Global South nations: percentage of adolescent girls not enrolled in lower secondary school. (Highest national girls-rate-not-enrolled-lower-secondary school at greater than 30 percent – shown in red; dark-salmon color at 20 to 30 percent completion). Source: UNESCO Institute 2020


(9) Extreme High Gender Inequality in Global South nations: Pervasive cultural inequality excludes women from choices in their daily lives. It manifests in many dimensions: when and who to marry; whether or when to become pregnant; even whether to be subjected as a young girl to FGM (female genital mutilation) as are 250,000 girls each year. The United Nation’s gender inequality index combines deficits in reproductive health and civic/workplace empowerment. (Greatest gender inequality – shown in dark-red; next worst shown in medium-red; best in dark-green). Source: UN Development Program, 2020.


Final Commentary: We should be clear that no one organization – even one with resources to fund massive intervention – can entirely resolve the complex societal issues related to patterns of human reproduction. However, it is vital to our collective future that we start to recognize and better understand the sustainability implications of human population: in the North, the extremely high and problematic per capita carbon output; and, in the South, the extremely high growth of population and the problematic future cumulative carbon output.

If your organization shares our view that constructive change is possible, then join in this effort and consider applying for one of our Idea-Grants. To get started with the application process just complete our web-accessible one-page form: Expression of Interest for Idea-Grant.