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?
LAND REFORM –
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 ownersThe solution was 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.
HIGH YIELDING VARIETIES
The problem: existing rice varieties, grew rapidly but very tall so fell over easily and had to be grown quite far apart.The solution was the development of new high yielding varieties of rice – 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 solution was the technology such as tractors and mechanised ploughs were introduced from MEDCs, replacing water buffalo and increasing efficiency, reducing the required human input.Other changes brought 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.
Failures of the Green Revolution
- 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.
- Many very poor farmers, were tenant farmers, with little money to buy even the new seeds or fertiliser that was required.
- 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.
- The large amounts of fertilisers and pesticides required by the HYVs also led to serious environmental problems as they entered water supplies
- 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.
- The Green Revolution created wide regional and interstate disparities. The plan was implemented only in areas with assured supplies of water and the means to control it, large inputs of fertilizers, and adequate farm credit. These inputs were easily available in at least parts of the states of Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh; thus, yields increased most in these states. In other states, such as Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, in areas where these inputs were not assured, the results were limited or negligible, leading to considerable variation in crop yields within these states. The Green Revolution also increased income disparities: higher income growth and reduced incidence of poverty were found in the states where yields increased the most and lower income growth and little change in the incidence of poverty in other states.
Second Green Revolution
The first Green Revolution was launched to ensure food security as there was severe scarcity of food in the country. Today, our food supply is well secure. Meeting the growing needs is within reach. Therefore, the second Green Revolution should aim at promoting sustainable livelihood, enabling the poor to come out of poverty by generating gainful self-employment. While the first Green Revolution aimed at undertaking mass agricultural production, the second Green Revolution should be to promote agricultural production by the masses. This is the Gandhian approach to equitable sharing of prosperity by involving the poor in development. For achieving this goal, we need to search for technologies which can be adopted by the farmers in arid and semi-arid regions, and those who are dependent on rainfall for crop production.
Agroforestry on Degraded Lands:
Sustainable livelihood being the major concern, the second Green Revolution should focus on generation of employment for small and marginal farmers, while enhancing agricultural production in unirrigated areas. As most of these families own degraded and low fertile lands, deprived of irrigation, the focus should be on sustainable use of such lands. Presently, these lands are not being used intensively for high value crops. In fact, farmers often incur losses by farming on such lands, due to natural calamities. Such lands can be profitably used for establishment of drought tolerant fruit crops and agri-horti-pastures. Tree crops have the ability to withstand the vagaries of nature without sustaining heavy losses. Tree-based farming can also provide year-round employment while protecting the soil from erosion and runoff of rain water. Promotion of tree based farming will also enrich soil fertility and increase the water table while absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide all round the year.