Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Green Revolution

In the 1960s, there was concern from the Indian government that the country would not be able to grow enough food to support the ever increasing population, so they put into place what was called the 'Green Revolution'. The idea of the 'Green Revolution' was to use technology to increase food output and as a result, over the last 50 years a series of changes have taken place in farming in India with the introduction of more 'Western-type' farming techniques.

What changes in farming in India did the Green Revolution bring about?


The problem: Efficient farming was difficult in India due to the many small farms (75% less than 3ha), which had become a product of the 'Laws of Divided Inheritance' (with farms being split between the sons of the farmer on his death), many of the poor didn't even own land, whereas large amounts of land were owned by a few rich land owners

The GR (Green Revolution) solution: Land Reform - aimed to increase farm size, setting a limit on the amount of land the more wealthy could own and redistributing surplus land to those without.


The problem: existing rice varities, grew rapidly but very tall so fell over easily and had to be grown quite far apart.

The GR solution: money provided by MEDCs such as the UK, USA etc. enabled new high yielding varities of rice to be developed - resulting in the development of a new rice plant known as IR8. This was shorter and stronger; could be planted much closer together, enabling more crop per area; had a shorter growing season and produced almost 3-4 times as much yield per hectare.


The problem: rice growing is labour intensive, with many jobs to be done requiring great human input

The GR solution: technology such as tractors and mechanised ploughs were introduced from MEDCs, replacing water buffalo and increasing efficiency, reducing the required human input.

Other changes bought about by the Green Revolution:

(i) - Irrigation schemes, including the introduction of electric / diesel pumps to help ensure a more steady and reliable source of water for the new IR8 HYVs and large scale projects such as the Narmada River Project (a series of dams built to help provide water for irrigation of the land)

(ii) As the introduction of tractors and other 'Western' style technology was not as successful as first hoped, Alternative, 'Appropriate Technology' has been introduced which is suited to the local people's wealth, skills and knowledge, for example low cost irrigation schemes etc.

What were the successes of the Green Revolution?

(i) Those that could afford the new Hybrid seeds, technology etc. saw an increase of 300% in crop yields;

(ii) The overall increase in food production helped to feed the ever increasing poulation with India becoming largely self-sufficient

(iii) Increased output overall meant that some subsistence farmers had a surplus which they were also able to sell, helping to raise living standards further. Money raised in this was was also reinvested into the farm, helping with the costs of machinery etc. or to buy more land

(iv) Areas in which the Green Revolution was successful became richer and more money was available for investment in schools, clinics, industry etc.

What were the failures of the Green Revolution? (see also this excellent BBC Article for specific examples)

(i) Unfortunately for many farmers the cost of machinery was too much and they simply couldn't afford it, as well as the high initial outlay, money was also required for fuel and repair.

(ii) Many very poor farmers, were tenant farmers, with little money to buy even the new seeds or fertiliser that was required.

(iii) New irrigation schemes were required to provide the reliable source of water required by the HYVs (High Yielding Varieties of rice). As well as being expensive, in some cases where inappropriate schemes were used salinisation became a problem. Dam construction in some areas also resulted in the flooding of some good farming land.

(iv) The large amounts of fertilisers and pesticides required by the HYVs also led to serious environmental problems as they entered water supplies

(v) In areas where there was an increase in mechanisation, there was an increase in unemployment with fewer people needed to do the jobs that were now done using tractors etc.

(vi) The consequent increase in unemployment in rural areas led to an increase in rural-urban migration with more people moving to the cities, causing urban problems

(vii) Many farmers who had tried to take on the new technologies became heavily in debt, leading to increase stress and in some instances suicide.

Key Terms:

  • Green Revolution - the introduction of changes in farming in India since the 1960s, using new technologies to increase farming output

  • HYVs - New 'High Yielding Varities' of rice designed to increase output

  • Appropriate Technology - that which is economically and environmentally sustainable meeting the needs of the people in relation to their wealth, skills and knowledge

Green Revolution (Wikipedia) - External Link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Revolution

’s Green Revolution - External Link http://www.indiaonestop.com/Greenrevolution.htm
The limits of a Green Revolution (BBC Article) - External Link http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/6496585.stm

– The Green Revolution - External Link http://countrystudies.us/india/104.htm
Green Revolution in India: A Case Study -External Link http://teacherweb.ftl.pinecrest.edu/SNYDERD/APHG/Unit%205/GreenRev.htm

Photo Credit: Jonathan Talbot, World Resources Institute. 2004. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wricontest/466492667/)

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