2.3.1 The Process of the Green Revolution
The increased production in agriculture as a result of the
utilization of new varieties with a high yield potential in
conjunction with more water, fertilizers, and pesticides is
called the Green Revolution. The new varieties are not of
themselves high yielding, but rather, genetically, they are
a yield potential which can only develop if sufficient water
and plant nutrients are available. If these are lacking, the
yields are sometimes lower than those of local varieties.
As is often the case as far as high bred varieties are concerned,
they are susceptible to diseases and require careful plant
protection measures, Besides, on account of their low resistance
and rapid degeneration, the varieties must be replaced by
newly bred varieties after only a few years.
When the new seeds are grown with sufficient water, fertilizers,
and pesticides, the increases in the yields are astonishingly
high. Many a farmer has, from one year to the next, harvested
three times as large a wheat yield from the same area using
the new seeds. This obvious increase in the yield caused the
new varieties to be rapidly adopted. During the first years,
the shortage of seed, and not a lack of readiness to utilize
it, constituted a bottleneck when the new varieties were introduced.
All the same, one should be conscious of the narrow limits
of this technological change that is misleadingly called a
"revolution." It is not a general breakthrough in
agricultural production. The changes apply primarily to the
cultivation of wheat and rice, whereas the other cereals are
hardly affected. Thus, cereals from the arid regions as well
as cotton, pulses, and oil plants are more or less excluded.
As far as rice is concerned, the problems are far more difficult.
The new rice varieties require not only that irrigation be
available, but also make great demands on the quality of irrigation.
The varieties suffer damage from too much as well as too little
water. Thus, while controlled irrigation is necessary, frequently
an irrigation system is used that consists of rain water overflooding
the upper terraces and flowing down to the lower terraces
so that the ammuat of water cannot be controlled. In such
cases, it is a definite necessity to improve the irrigation
systems before the new varieties can be successfully cultivated.
Since irrigation is an indispensable factor for this new
technology, regions which depend on rainfall are implicitly
excluded from partaking in these changes. But in India and
in Pakistan, only about one third of the arable land is irrigated.
This results in tremendous regional differences. The Green
Revolution is restricted to irrigated regions and, therefore,
to regions which have always produced better yields and thus
belonged to the wealthier states. The regional differences
became, therefore, even more pronounced.
Similar differences in participation are found according
to farm size. Better information, a greater capacity to take
risks, and readiness to adopt innovations explain why the
large farms adopted the innovation at an early stage, In addition,
they had the advantage of obtaining high subsidies during
the first years and better prices for seed production. Small
farms followed later with some hesitance. In some cases, tenants
were forbidden to use the new seed. The more delayed adoption
by the small farms can also be explained partly by the initially
poor baking quality when the technology which existed in the
villages was used and by its poorer taste.
Even after the initial phase, the large farms were more advantaged
than the small ones. There is no doubt that the new technology
can be split up. Seed, fertilizers, water and pesticides can
be used on small as well as on large areas. They are therefore
neutral as far as farm size is concerned. However, this is
no longer true in the case of tractors and pumps. In trying
to improve the new opportunities by utilizing machines, the
large farms had, therefore, advantages. However, the different
farm inputs are still more important. In this aspect, the
large farms have decisive advantages. They are better informed,
have better transport facilities, and more credit, and, when
capital goods are scarce,they are frequently more likely to
be supplied on a preferential basis.
The new technology utilizes to a greater extent purchased
inputs, i.e., that are not produced on the farm. Thus, the
interdependence with the market, capital expenditure, and
thus risk are increased, especially for inexperienced farmers.
Formerly,crop failures could be overcome by tightening ones
belt', but this no longer helps if one has considerable debts
to be paid to the farm input suppliers. But precisely the
risk ensuing from climatic fluctuations cannot be eliminated.
Soon, there were crop failures because the farmers had not
learned how to react promptly to infestation with disease.
For those who were in a better economic position, the integration
in the market economy and simultaneous implementation of the
technological innovation meant new possibilities of action.
For the economically weak, the path leading to market integration
often led to new dependences.
Likewise, under the aspect of the overall economy, the Green
Revolution has not brought advantages alone. It is true that
the yield increases in the two countries improved the supply
of foodstuffs for a few years. This was more lasting in India
because the necessary research stations were built to produce
the constantly required new varieties. Today, Pakistan is
still or again dependent on cereal imports.
Moreover, the intensified utilization of purchased inputs
has not made production less expensive and has led to considerable
price increases. The utilization of inputs previously unknown
to the farmers can easily damage the environment. Quite often,
pesticides and herbicides are applied in a wrong concentration.
But increased irrigation also has consequences.The ground
water level is raised and the risk of salinization is increased.
Many regions have irrigation but insufficient drainage. In
some regions, the water reserves also decrease.The overwhelming
production increases also distracted from several alternatives.
In countries where 20-30% of the harvest is lost, it would
surely be less expensive to reduce the losses than to increase
production at high costs, especially when increasing oil prices
bring about a considerable rise in the cost of inputs.
It must also be mentioned that the Green Revolution meant
increased production at drastically rising social costs. The
society subsidizes seeds, finances research stations, invests
in fertilizer factories and irrigation systems, builds roads,
and organizes farm systems. Since part of the higher yields
can be attributed to these expences incurred by the society,
and not to the efforts of the individual farmers, some of
the profits should be skimmed off and go to the government
for further economic development. But this is not taking place
due to the prevailing power structure.
The Green Revolution is therefore a mixed blessing. It brought
about decisive advances in agricultural production, but also
serious economic and social problems. It is important to realize
that these problems are not actually the consequences of the
new technologies per se. They are the result of the prevailing
economic and social conditions which only become more evident.
Therefore, it cannot be a matter of putting a stop to new
technology but, at the most, to keep it within bounds. It
is important to take measures to solve the prevailing problems,
especially the deficiencies in the agrarian structure so that
new technologies no longer lead to negative consequences.
The problem of the man-land relations following the Green
Revolution becomes even more crucial. As will be shown in
the following, the prospects in that respect have sooner diminished.
This becomes especially evident if the implications of the
agrarian changes for various strata of the rural population
are more thoroughly examined