To what extent was the Green Revolution successful in South-east Asia?

Posted: August 29th, 2013

To what extent was the Green Revolution successful in South-east Asia?






To what extent was the Green Revolution successful in South-east Asia?


A large part of the developing world continues to suffer hunger today because of several reasons. This was the case in Asian nations during the Bengal famine, which killed many people in Asia. Many countries have often sought various ways of eliminating hunger. While some countries have suitable soils, they are not able to produce sufficient food to feed the people because they lack other necessary resources. Other factors such as the environment and climatic changes also contribute to the poor yields experienced. Political instability is also a factor that limits the people’s ability to work. People are not able to work when they are fighting internally or when they are warring with other nations. The idea behind the Green Revolution in Asia was to ensure that people did not die of starvation any more. The green revolution aimed at increasing the grain output by adopting modern agricultural methods.

The Green Revolution

The Green revolution began in Southeast Asia in 1960s. The main countries that were involved in the revolution included Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos. The region had experienced a high increase in population over the years. The land available was not enough to farm, and many people suffered because they were hungry. The idea behind the revolution was to increase the output of grains such as rice by increasing the output per unit of land and by producing more than one type of crop per land. This was possible because the revolution produced grains that matured more quickly than the traditional varieties. The countries aimed to do this by improving the traditional grains by developing modern varieties that were stronger. They introduced varieties produced more because they used fertilizers more efficiently. The revolution introduced the use of western techniques in the farmland. The farmers used a lot fertilizers and pesticides to ensure that the crops yielded more. They also used a lot of water for irrigation and much energy and human labor was required. The different governments that were part of the revolution invested heavily in agricultural machinery and other farm inputs.

The green revolution produced seeds by crossbreeding the traditional crops with crops of other varieties. The seeds produced crops that were more resistant to diseases and yet produced more output. The plants responded to fertilizers than the other varieties. They were also drought resistant and had high nutrient content. They had short stalks, and matured early. The green revolution introduced mechanized farming. This was however not implemented fully by most governments since it required a lot of capital. The revolution introduced the use of chemical fertilizers. Although this is beneficial since it helps increase the soil nutrients, it can also damage the health of farmers who are in contact with it. The revolution uses various pesticides to control the pests and diseases. Farmers have to apply pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and insecticides to ensure that the crops are healthy (Daquila, 2005)

Success of the Green Revolution

The investment made by the people and the government was successful, as the Southeast Asian countries produced more food, therefore ensuring food security in the region. The area became productive to the extent that it produced enough food to feed the people and to export to other countries. The revolution therefore contributed to the economic development of the countries. The revolution has contributed to environmental conservation, by reducing the area of forested land that is cleared for agriculture. The modern grain varieties produce more grains in a small piece of land compared to the traditional varieties. This meant that less area is needed to cultivate food than before. Previously, deforestation was rampant as people cleared more land for farming. This has however changed, and countries have more forested land. Before the revolution, rice farmers used a lot of water to produce the rice. Farmers would use six tons of water to produce one kilogram of rice. The modern methods of farming combined with technology changed this, as farmers now use two tons of water to produce the same amount of rice (Otsuka, 2005).

The green revolution benefited the consumer, as it ensured that there were more grains in the market. This in turn reduced the prices of the grains. Poor people used to find it hard to buy the grains. The price reduction has however changed this, as the poor can afford a decent meal because of the reduced prices. The poor also benefited, as there was much work to be done in the fields. Although the modern varieties produce more output than the traditional varieties, they are also labor intensive. There is much work to be done such as applying fertilizers and pesticides, and ensuring that the crops are well irrigated. This means that more people are employed in the fields than before. Many of the people who work in the fields are poor, and this has therefore benefited them more since they have more family income (Otsuka, 2003).

Costs and Disadvantages of the Revolution

The green revolution has definitely benefited the people in numerous ways. However, it has also incurred several costs to the people, the government and the environment. It has depleted the nutrients in the soil because farmers have always planted one crop at one particular place. Farmers have tended to depend more on chemical fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides to ensure high production, and this is harmful to the environment. This has led to the degradation of the soil. The use of herbicides and pesticides are harmful to the soil since they kill earthworms. Earthworms are necessary since they help to aerate the soil and help in infiltration (Rorabacher, 2010). The overuse of the chemicals has contributed to the depletion of nutrients in the soil. Pests have become immune to the natural or less strong pesticides applied. The use of harsher and stronger pesticides has led to the development of stronger pests, which require harsher chemicals to eliminate (Daquila, 2005).

Irrigation is important since it guarantees that people have food even during the dry season. However, increased irrigation has contributed to water logging and increased salinity in the soil. Crops do not grow in areas where there is increased water logging since they cannot obtain oxygen. In addition, the use of chemicals pose a threat to the rivers and lakes, as it increases the chances of pollution. The revolution has concentrated on increasing the output of rice, wheat and maize. The three crops are the major carbohydrates around the world. Countries in the Southeast Asian region mainly use rice as the staple diet. This means that other food crops such as pulses and vegetables are grown on a smaller scale. This has contributed to malnutrition, as people do not eat a balanced diet. The green revolution has contributed to the decrease in biodiversity in the regions where it is practiced. The farmers plant the modern high yielding and early maturing varieties, and they abandon the traditional varieties. As a result, some of the traditional varieties no longer exist.

Limitations of the Revolution

The revolution is limited by the fact that more arable land is being urbanized, leaving less land for agricultural development. More people are choosing to take up jobs in the cities, and this is encouraging the growth of urban areas. People need housing, and more land is taken up for such purposes. Another limitation of the green revolution is that more farmers have started taking up organic farming. In countries such as Indonesia, farmers have begun going back to the traditional methods of cultivation, where they rely less on fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and machinery. They have instead adopted organic farming, where they are using alternative methods of controlling pests and weeds. This is largely because they want to protect the environment by avoiding the use of harsh chemicals. They are also concerned about the nutritive quality of the soil and the food. Another limitation of the green revolution in the Southeast Asian countries is the fact that there is little water available for irrigation. Although the green revolution reduced the quantity of water that was used by traditional farmers, it still uses a lot of water for irrigation. The high population means that more water is going towards human consumption, and this is leaving less water for irrigation. Another limitation of the revolution is the fact that it cannot succeed in every country. Some countries cannot afford the needed equipment and resources. They lack the money to buy equipment such as tractors and irrigation tools. They may not have resources such as labor and energy, which are necessary to carry out the irrigation. The countries may not have suitable agricultural land, and this will affect the cultivation of crops.

The Green Revolution in South Asia

The green revolution in South Asia has largely been practiced in India and Pakistan. The green revolution in India was concerned with three factors. These factors included the continued expansion of farming areas, using genetically improved seeds and double cropping. The country experienced one monsoon, and it made use of this by planting crops during that time, and harvesting the rainwater, which had previously been wasted. This meant that it cultivated crops throughout the year. The people build dams where the rainwater from the monsoon was harvested. This water was then used for irrigation in the dry season. The revolution contributed to building the country’s economy in different ways. For instance, many people were employed during the construction of dams, and some worked in farms.

This enhanced industrial and economic growth. The country was able to finance some of its loans, and it was even able to pay back a loan taken from the World Bank. People’s living standards improved since they had jobs and they could afford to buy food and other necessities. The results of the revolution in the country were impressive, as the country recorded a grain output of 131 million tons of grain between 1978 and 1979. This was the biggest success of the green revolution, and it transformed India, from a once starving and food insecure nation, to a grain exporting nation (Wehr, 2011). The success of the revolution in India was noticed by other countries such as Canada. Canada brought in farmers from India, to help revolutionize the agricultural industry in the country ().

The first wave of the green revolution in India happened in the late sixties and seventies. The farmers concentrated on growing wheat, and although this was successful in a few areas, it was not sufficient to cater for all the people. The second wave of the revolution happened in the eighties. Farmers began including other food crops such as maize, sorghum and millet. This is one of the main differences between the revolution in Southeast Asia and India. While the Southeast Asian nations concentrated on cultivating their staple crop, which is rice, India was willing to try cultivating other crops. Sorghum, millet, and maize are staple foods in some of the regions in India (Wehr, 2011).

Green revolution in India uses the same techniques used in other nations such as the use of pesticides and herbicides. This means that the revolution has caused the same negative effects to the environment. The use of chemicals has affected the water, and this has led to the increase in diseases such as cancer. The revolution had only been successful in a few areas, meaning that the other regions did not experience the same agricultural growth. It was not successful in majority of the places because the country still depended on the monsoon, to collect enough water for irrigation. When the monsoon rains failed in the nineties, there was no water for irrigation and cultivation. This reduced the amount of food crops produced through irrigation and the country had to import so that it would feed the people (Wehr, 2011).

The green revolution in India has several limitations. One limitation is that more people have become tired of agriculture. Many people do not want to work in farms, and many people are moving from the rural areas to urban areas. The annual growth rate in agriculture has declined over the years. This is a worrying trend, since India has a high population, and if people abandon agriculture, many of them will end up hungry. Another limitation facing the revolution in the country is that the consumption of cereals has decreased over the years. This has increased the stock of cereals for export. The government has been forced to export the cereals to other regions, sometimes at extremely low prices (Fujita, 2010). Another limitation is that the high yielding variety seeds do not apply to all crops.

The green revolution was also practiced in Pakistan. The farmers were willing to work and use whatever resources, were available to them to ensure that they succeeded. Unfortunately, the revolution benefited the wealthy in the society who owned large tracts of land. They could afford the expensive input required for farming. This created class inequalities that continue to this day. There are vast disparities between the rich and the poor, and between those who have land and those who do not have any land. Despite these differences and conflicts, the green revolution is an essential part of the country’s economy. It is so important that it has influenced the politics and the economy of the country.

The revolution has ensured that the country continues to cultivate and produce high quantities of wheat. This is not the case in the entire country. The eastern side of the country did not adopt the green revolution, and it had many problems such as lack of flood controls. Pakistan developed the green revolution more rapidly than other nations in the south Asian region. They used the tube wells and technology such as tractors more than the other regions. This is because they had the capital to do this since most of the farms were owned by wealthy people (Rorabacher, 2010). Pakistan adopted wheat, rice, lentils and potatoes at a faster rate than other countries in the south Asia region. These crops multiplied and thrived after the green revolution.

Some countries in the southeast region have adopted alternative measures of producing more crops and they have abandoned the use of chemical fertilizers. They have adopted organic farming, which encourages the use of manure. However, this is not the case with countries in the south Asian region. They use manure for straw and they feed their animals with the non-edible components of food, instead of using it on their crops (Rorabacher, 2010). Another difference between the green revolution in both countries is the fact that the south Asian countries are more willing to diversify their crops, while people in the southeastern region have mostly stuck to cultivating rice as the main crop.


The green revolution seems to be the solution to the hunger problem that persists in different parts of the world. This is because it has ensured the continued increase in production of different crops. The revolution has however incurred several problems. It has destroyed the environment, especially the depletion of soil nutrients. The revolution has also contributed to the increased cases of malnutrition where the revolution has been a success. This is because people have tended to concentrate more on cultivating staple crops, all of which are carbohydrates. This means that people are underfed since they do not get all the necessary nutrients and minerals from the food. The revolution faces several limitations. Countries require a lot of input as farming and irrigation equipment, fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. This is an expensive investment, and some developing countries cannot afford. Another limitation is that people are abandoning agriculture as they move to urban places. This means that there are fewer people left to work on the farms and that more land is used for housing in the urban places.


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