Engaging in green revolution

In the 1970s, the predominant mode of thinking was the top-down or transfer-of-technology model. New technology would come through transfer of good practices from the developed countries, with diffusion taking place through community development programmes. Diffusion was achieved through the establishment of a number of research institutions, initially through private and bilateral aid and later with multilateral aid, and the transfer-of-technology model became the correct institutional mode for agricultural development. The rationale for this approach was the widespread view that developing country agriculture was technologically primitive and that the rapid population growth rates meant a need for new technology. Similarly it was thought that the problem was not so much one of inefficient agronomic practice as of technology that needed upgrading. At the same time, plant breeders started applying plant characteristics previously confined to temperate food crops - hybrid vigour and dwarfing - to crops grown in tropical countries. The high-yielding varieties that emerged became the basis of what is now known as the Green Revolution.
The Green Revolution is an example of top-down technology transfer, since the impetus came from two international agricultural research centres (forming the basis of the current CGIAR network) rather than the developing countries themselves. Production technologies and varieties for mandated crops and geographical regions were developed in these centres and subsequently passed on to the national agricultural research systems for applied research and final transfer to farmers.

Attitudes towards the green revolution have altered over time. Initial analysis focused on issues associated with the adoption or not of modern varieties, it being suggested that failure to benefit from modern varieties was due to ignorance of smaller farmers. Later analysis suggests that high-yielding varieties were incompatible with prevailing socio-economic conditions and were only suitable under a specific set of favourable conditions. The problem was not the technology itself, which was highly successful when applied efficiently, but that it often did not meet the needs and circumstances of farmers. The problem seems to have been the centralized nature of the research institutes involved in development and diffusion of the technology, which did not allow feedback from farmers. This would have been crucial for solving basic problems facing farmers, particularly small farmers in poor regions. Better understanding of the issues derived from the green revolution has led to a growing emphasis on agriculture as a complex dynamic system.

1. The green revolution has been a major technological achievement, and its effects are continuing. Recent studies of the impacts of the green revolution also suggests that it extended beyond the rice/wheat producers of Asia to include other crops and other socio- economic settings and also to some areas of Africa (Nigeria). Commercial farmers in what is now Zimbabwe launched a green revolution for maize in 1960, five years ahead of the green revolution in India. Zimbabwe repeated this with a second green revolution - for smallholders - in the first half of the 1980s.

2. The greatest beneficiaries of the green revolution may be the consumers. Real food prices in Asia, indeed throughout the world, have steadily declined over the past 30 years through the application of yield-increasing, cost-reducing technologies built around improved seed-fertilizer-weed control components. Lower real food prices benefit the poor relatively more than the rich, since the poor spend a larger proportion of their available income on food.

Environment Environment
Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 15: Life on Land