With Nigeria’s population growing at more than 3% a year, Nigerian authorities are offering free family planning methods and advice to Nigerian families in an effort to slow population growth.

It can be difficult to provide for a large family. Thirty-year-old Esther Ndubisi is a mother of seven children. Her youngest child is about 8 months old.

She says her partner, a painter, barely makes enough to feed the family of nine and cannot afford to send all their children to school.

“To pay their school fees sometimes it brings problems for me and my husband,” she said.

Nigeria has the largest population in Africa, and it is growing at 3.2% a year. The U.S. Census Bureau says that at that rate, there will be an estimated 402 million people in Nigeria in 2050.

The major triggers for population increase include early marriages, high birth rates and lack of family planning access. But cultural and religious contributors are also impacting significantly.

Family planning activists such as Ejike Orji worry about uncontrolled population growth.

“The number of people we are producing every year is faster than our developmental rate,” Orji said. “And that is why Nigeria has become the No. 1 country with the highest number of poor people.”

But that could change. A project by the nonprofit Planned Parenthood Federation of Nigeria in collaboration with the Nigerian government is providing family planning methods and advice across the country.

Program officer Ada Iluno says it is making an impact.

“When we go for outreaches, we seek out rural areas where we know that the uptake is quite low and the need is very high. … Based on our operations we have seen quite a lot of results where you see high turnout of women,” Iluno said.

The average family size in Nigeria is 5.6 people, but many families are larger, especially in the north where polygamy is common.

The government is trying to encourage smaller family sizes in order to secure Nigeria’s financial future.

But experts say until social structures like education and health are improved, the odds are that Nigeria’s population will continue to increase and may even surpass the 2050 projection.

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