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The fact that food is one of the basic needs of world population needs no referencing. In the early times, increase in the production of crop was due to increase in the area of cultivation but in today’s era, scenario has changed. The production of agricultural products is increased with the increase in the productivity of the land (per acre or per hectare). The system of agricultural production has undergone a drastic change from the basis of natural resources to scientific bases, which involved technology revolution in the agricultural sector. The traditional variety of seeds was not able to yield maximum productivity from the land with dependence on uncertain climatic conditions, which resulted in disastrous situation like famine (Freebairn, 1995). On the other side, government also moved focus from agro-based economy to industrial based economy. This shifted the labor force from crop production to industrial goods production and resulted in low productivity of agriculture with the increase in population worldwide.
The biggest technological revolution in the history of agriculture in developing countries was High Yielding Varieties (HYV) of seeds with the help of various institutions and federations, particularly International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines in 1960 and International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (IMWIC) in Mexico in 1967. These new seeds increased the productivity of land quantitatively as well as qualitatively by enabling to produce 2-3 crops per year (Hazarika, 2002). By 1982-83 more than half of the area of cultivation of wheat and rice in developing countries including India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, Sri Lanka was adopted through these high yielding varieties of seeds (Dalrymple, 1985; Basu, 2009). India introduced these hybrid seeds in 1961 named ‘Green Revolution’ with the help of government, adopting new policies and programs like Intensive Agricultural Development Programme (IADP) started in 16 districts to provide information to the farmers (Mann, 1989).
Scenario of India
By the early 1960’s India faced the problem of food shortage rather relied on PL480 food grant from US. Authors have argued about the success of government of India in solving food shortage problem in relation to poverty. With the introduction of high yielding variety seeds in India, government made the country self-sufficient for the food requirement but failed to solve the issue of poverty by leaving the market to work itself. HYV increased the quantity of produced crop with the increase in the cost of production but it was found that in the Karnal district of Haryana in 1967-68 HYV wheat seeds gave Rs.207 more return per acre as compared to local variety whereas in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu in 1966-67 HYV rice seeds gave Rs.168.57 more return per acre. HYV seeds produce more yields in comparison to traditional local variety seeds. For instance, in case of wheat, average produce from HYV seeds was 12.3 quintals per acre and from traditional variety it was 7.5 quintals per acre of land whereas in case of rice seeds, it was 10.7 and 7.8 quintals per acre of land respectively. Authors have argued about the advantages and disadvantages of HYV and local variety seeds as shown in the table below:
Relative Advantages and Disadvantages of HYV and Traditional Seeds
Shorter Maturity duration
Longer maturity duration
Higher yield per hectare
Lower yield per hectare
Higher output price
Lower output price
Higher Seed Price
Lower Seed Price
More prone to pests and diseases
Less prone to pests and diseases
More by-products like hay as taller plants
Higher cultivation cost
Lower cultivation cost
Higher fluctuation(variation) in yield
Lower fluctuation (variation) in yield
Source: Goyari and Sharma (2008)
HYV seeds required assured water supply, large doses of fertilizers and pesticides depending upon the land fertility and soil moisture conditions, which further enhance the requirement of inputs including irrigation facilities like tractors, tube wells, threshing and harvesting machines. This made the private sector interested in the HYV seeds. The success of HYV seeds in India depended upon the government support, financial means of farmers and the supply of inputs.
In mid-1960’s the irrigation system from canals, tube wells and dug wells was under developed as three quarters of land depended upon rainfall. The role of government in the green revolution in India is quite vital. Due to incomplete information available about the farmers’ financial strength in relation to cost of production with HYV seeds, private sector was reluctant to invest. In the early 1970’s, cost of production of HYV was Rs. 1,125 per hectare but a small or marginal farmer with ownership of 2 hectares of land could had afford to invest just Rs. 350 per hectare. This made the requirement of loan from the banks and it required minimum of 10 acres of land to get loan. About 80% of the farmers were holding less than 10 acres of land resulting in benefits to middle class and rich farmers only, further making unequal distribution of wealth and consequently increasing poverty to 61% within three years after the introduction of HYVP. Thus, the government intervention was quite essential. Furthermore, the government of India adopted new programmes like ‘Garabi Hatao’ and policies to distribute irrigation facilities to the poor and providing finance by nationalizing 14 of its largest banks in 1969. In order to control the prices of inputs for HYV seeds government took production of inputs in its own hands and offered substantial subsidies on the purchase of inputs.
Despite of the government intervention, large farmers took benefit of HYV seeds and changed the whole structure of the rural economy due to large mechanization on the fields. Large land owners instead of leasing out to tenants, got access to inputs easily and took help of hired labor (Rosset, 2000). In short, development in the agriculture sector in India in 1960’s solved the problem of food shortage but not the poverty.
Scenario of Pakistan
Pakistan was also one of the countries during the green revolution period which adopted the new miracle seeds technology to increase the yield of the land from the dispersion of semi dwarf wheat and rice varieties. The growth of agricultural output was increased from 6% to 15% in 1961-65 and 1967-68 respectively (Byerlee and Siddiq, 1994). Pakistan also got the location advantage due to its homogeneous environment and contiguous irrigation system, which made the fertile land of the country more capable of adopting HYV seeds. During 1966-69 in West Pakistan the production of wheat increased by 79% whereas production of rice increased by 61% (Child and Kaneda, 1975).
Pakistan has showed the relation of growth in the small scale manufacturing industries with the growth in the agriculture sector during green revolution period. With the increase in the demand of inputs like diesel engines, tube wells, pumps, tractors, harvesting machines, etc. the small scale engineering industry got a chance to expand and grow to enhance the new technology in the agricultural sector. The development in the manufacturing industry was very impulsive as the government of Pakistan did not notice this development in the industry and it grew without getting any help from the government in terms of no subsidies, no tax concessions, no special credit arrangements or technical assistance (Azhar, 1991).
Though West Pakistan, mainly Punjab, showed development from the new technology but unable to keep up with its planning. The contribution of HYV seeds was found to be limited with the type of crops (wheat, rice, maize, bajra and jowar) in Pakistan. Wasim (2007) in a study of 44 years from 1951-52 to 1994-95 of HYV seeds in Pakistan, demonstrated that during the period of green revolution the growth of HYV wheat seeds in the production, yield and area is significant. In case of rice and maize, production and yield had been increased due to the usage of HYV seeds whereas jowar HYV seeds showed a growth in the yield of land per unit area but with a decrease in production and area of cultivation of jowar in the same period of green revolution.
Limitations of technology development
The introduction of HYV seeds was with the expectation of removing hunger and poverty in the countries by increasing the output of food grains and the income of farmers. Rosset (2000) found the use of these magical seeds in half of the production of wheat in Asia, Africa and Latin America, about 75 percent of rice in Asia and 70 percent of world’s corn. But the increase in the productivity of food grains was at the cost of increasing poverty as most of the benefits of these seeds were gained by large farmers. For instance, in Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh, India) 60 percent of the income of households’ farm was declined in 1967-69 while in Ferozepur (Punjab, India) mainly large farmers gained the advantage with the increase in income from Rs. 90 in 1956-57 to Rs. 432 in 1969-70 but the small farmers’ share of income declined from 8.18 percent to 7.84% in the same period (Basu, 2009). It was also evident that the ownership of land by large farmers’ increased by 9.5 percent between 1955-56 and 1967-68 in Punjab with just a 4% increase in the farm sizes of 20-25 acres and 40% increase in the farm size of 100-150 acres (Basu, 2009). The technological advancement in the agriculture sector resulted in the unequal distribution of income and increase in poverty in India and Pakistan (Falcon, 1970).
High yielding variety seeds with shorter maturity period enabled farmers to do multiple cropping on the same fields which resulted in the increase in the number of days of working in a year in the rural areas. The government with a thought of ‘trickle down’ effect taking care of poverty left the market to work itself. It was assumed that with the increase in output food price will diminish and employment will increase. But during the period of green revolution there was an increase in poverty from 18% in 1960-61 to 31.8% in 1964-65 and to 63.1% in 1967-68 with Punjab being the most affected (Basu, 2009). The large mechanization required with HYV seeds provided benefits to rich and middle class farmers, which resulted in the decrease of tenancy cultivation and demand of hired labor. Due to the absence of strict government intervention, banks provided loans to the rich and middle class farmers with assured water supply, making loans available at a cheaper rate and reduced collateral requirements for the loan arrangements. This increased the availability and demand of loans to purchase labor-saving devices like tractors, threshing and harvesting machines by the landlords. This large technological change in the agriculture sector changed the structure of agricultural economy of tenancy cultivation, which was a predominant feature of Indian agriculture, by reducing the demand of labor and decreasing the loans to tenants from the landlords. Therefore, this effect prohibited the so called trickle down effect to take place.
Socio-economic and Ecological Impact
Despite the introduction of new miracle seeds and technology the problem of poverty was not improved even the food production was not at the same level in different areas in a country rather the term ‘revolution’ can be related to only about 10-15% of Asia (Falcon,1970). The new technology was restricted to limited number of farmers as seen in Ferozepur (Punjab, India) with only 10% of households having access to the technology (Basu and Mallick, 2008).
In 1970’s government realized the market failure of reducing poverty and took step forward to undertake anti-poverty programmes like poverty alleviation programmes, Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP), etc. The IRDP helped about 30 million families to become self employed during the sixth and seventh plan periods. From mid-1970’s government started to shift the focus from green revolution and thus, this period is referred as post-green revolution period. The government widened the area of supplying of inputs by nationalized banks, offering loans to small and marginal farmers with low interest rates and cautiously distribution of inputs like fertilizers. This empowered a higher growth rate at all-India level during the post green revolution period to 2.87% in contrast to 2.49% in 1967-68. Furthermore, it also declined the number of people below the poverty line from 45.90 % in 1972-73 to 25.97% in 1990-91 (Basu, 2009).
HYV seeds provided the opportunity to do multiple cropping in the same field. These seeds required assured water supply and large doses of fertilizers and pesticides to increase the yield. But due to excessive usage of chemical fertilizers and flooding of soil it lead to depletion of natural nutrients in the soil and made it less fertile. The table below shows the increase use of fertilizers in India and Pakistan during green revolution period:
Source: Falcon (1970)
High usage of fertilizers and pesticides kills the natural organisms in the soil and leads to soil diseases. The overflow from the excessive usage of fertilizer applications called for by the new technology results in the obliteration of proteins and massive eutrophication of lakes, streams and rivers and thus, affecting the sea life. Not only sea life but due to toxins present in these biocides the water used in the cultivation of crops gets contaminated and leaves harmful residues in the crops consumed by human beings (Cleaver, 2001).
Technological advancement in the agriculture sector named green revolution was a boom for the growth of agricultural economy in the developing countries. HYV seeds helped to generate self sufficiency in the food requirements of the developing countries like India and Pakistan. With the development in the technology, the requirement for advanced inputs like fertilizers, tractors and other irrigation facilities increased, which enabled farmers to do multiple cropping and higher yield per unit of area from HYV seeds. However, due to improper implementation of the new technology it resulted in some drawbacks in the agriculture sector. Rich and middle class farmers took maximum benefits from HYV programme with the help of easy access to credit market to purchase inputs and new technology. Due to this landlords replaced the structure of agricultural economy from tenancy cultivation with hired labors. The expected trickle down effect from the increase in food production and thus increasing employment from multiple cropping, did not take place and poverty issue remain unsolved in India and Pakistan. The shift of economy and technology from labor intensive to capital intensive formation with the excessive usage of chemical fertilizers, water resources and pesticides, lead to environmental deprivation and rise in poverty.
The unsolved issue of poverty in the developing countries forced the governments to intervene in the market and take necessary measures to create new employment opportunities. India realized this soon and took a lead with the introduction of anti-poverty programmes and making easy access of the new technology (HYV) and the inputs in the less productive areas of the country (Basu, 2009).
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