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The Green Revolution 35 years on – what are the impacts in India?
Green Revolution technology was first introduced to India from the USA in the 1960s. At the time it was controversial, with some arguing that the poorest people could not afford to participate and so would not benefit. However, Green Revolution technology continues to be important today. Researchers from King’s College and the University of Nottingham, both in the UK, looked at the impact of the Green Revolution in three villages in Uttar Pradesh, North India. These villages were also part of a 1972 study. This region is relatively well-irrigated and was one of the first areas where high yielding crop varieties (such as wheat) were introduced. Farmers also adopted Green Revolution rice and maize.
The researchers compared current crop yields, prosperity and well-being in three villages with 1972 data. They assessed the benefits that these new varieties appear to have brought to farmers and their families. Early in the Green Revolution, people argued that rich people would benefit at the cost of the poor people, and the divide between the two would grow. To assess this, the researchers looked at changes for farmers with large and medium farms, those with a small farms (three acres or less), and for landless people.
Overall, local people felt that Green Revolution technology had improved their lives and they were no longer hungry. The major impacts are:
- Wheat and rice production have increased significantly, and more land is now given to growing these crops. Other crops, such as pulses, are grown much less now.
- Large and medium farmers combine crops for consumption with cash crops such as sugar cane, while small farmers have few cash crops.
- Poorer farmers cannot achieve yields as high as those with better access to water, fertiliser and land.
- More people own land, but it is being divided into smaller and smaller plots. This is because of population growth and land redistribution schemes.
Overall, well-being has improved. The gap between rich and poor has increased, but the lives of the poorest members of scheduled castes have improved significantly. Everyone consulted felt that Green Revolution technology had been the main cause of improvements, from better food security to increased employment opportunities. However, inequality remains and some issues still need to be addressed. The researchers make the following conclusions:
- Government schemes to benefit poor people, including land redistribution, have been important alongside Green Revolution prosperity.
- Yields increased steadily for 15 years after the Green Revolution, but have now slowed or reversed. This means food security could again become a problem as the population continues to grow rapidly.
- Heavy use of inorganic fertilisers means that soil lacks micronutrients, which are also perceived to cause new illnesses.
- Increased use of organic compost as fertiliser should increase yields in a sustainable way. This would mean some income loss for those selling dung as fuel, but less expenditure on inorganic fertiliser.
‘Evaluating 35 Years of Green Revolution Technology in Villages of Bulandshahr District, Western UP, North India’, Journal of Development Studies, 43:2, pages 312-339, by Kathleen Baker and Sarah Jewitt, 2007
‘The Green Revolution re-assessed: Insider perspectives on agrarian change in Bulandshahr District, Western Uttar Pradesh, India’, Geoforum 38, 1, pages 73-89, by Sarah Jewitt and Kathleen Baker, 2007
id21 Research Highlight: 28 June 2007
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