Women and children on a farm in Ghana work to peel the skin from cassava to prepare it for further processing.
Photo: © IFPRI/Antony Chapoto (flickr.com)

Blind adoption of Green Revolution won’t work for Africa

African countries cannot blindly adopt food policy initiatives that spurred the Green Revolution in Asia as a way to promote agricultural development, according to new award-winning findings by researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute - IFPRI.

The research study “Agricultural intensification in Ghana: Evaluating the optimist’s case for a Green Revolution”, which was originally published in the journal Food Policy, suggests that Africa cannot rely on the same techniques that worked in the Asian Green Revolution, but must instead develop new technologies to improve the output of crops that are abundant in the region and to reduce the need for manual labor.

In a recent press release, IFPRI, the International Food Policy Research Institute, pointed out that during the Green Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, Asian and Latin American countries experienced a dramatic increase in the production of wheat and other staples by using new varieties and relying more heavily on fertiliser and irrigation. African countries have sought to mimic their success, but the adoption of similar policies failed to increase agricultural output.

“Assuming Africa is an appropriate setting for another Asian-style Green Revolution is misleading and could result in, yet again, a frustrated attempt to attain sustainable agricultural growth,” said IFPRI Senior Research Fellow Alejandro Nin-Pratt, lead author of the study.

In the study, the researchers looked at the case of Ghana to identify whether fast population growth and the remarkable agricultural performance the country had enjoyed in recent years had resulted in favourable conditions for the adoption of Asian-style Green Revolution technologies. In particular, they analysed whether fertiliser use in Ghana was associated with high population density and intensive cereal production and whether land-intensive innovations related to more efficient production practices. The study showed that overall, there was no evidence of Asian-style Green Revolution agricultural intensification in Ghana; in fact, the researchers have found no correlation between population density and input intensity. According to Nin-Pratt the study shows that labour costs still play a major role in Ghanaian agricultural development in limiting the adoption of labour-intensive technologies even in relatively high population density areas.

The IFPRI researcher reasons: “The population growth and increased population density we see across Africa may not be resulting in low labour costs. For agriculture, this means farmers may not be keen to adopt the kind of labour-intensive technology that featured in the Asian Green Revolution.”

On February 19th, Nin-Pratt received the Elsevier Atlas Award for his work detailing the reasons why African countries may not be ripe for a Green Revolution. The Atlas Award pays tribute to researchers who contribute significantly to human progress through science. The study’s results will appear in the Elsevier virtual journal Atlas.


More information:  Elsevier