A Green Revolution, This Time for AfricaBy TINA ROSENBERG
Last month was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution.
In 1944, Borlaug moved to Mexico to work on breeding high-yield, disease-resistant strains of wheat. Mexico adopted them — and in 1970, wheat yields were six times what they had been in 1950.
In 1965, India and Pakistan, then on the brink of widespread famine, began growing the high-yield wheat. Over the next 30 years, wheat yields in India tripled. The same happened with high-yield rice strains that had been developed in the Philippines.
Borlaug, who died in 2009, directed the wheat improvement program of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, which goes by the Spanish acronym Cimmyt. The research headquarters is a 78-hectare spread of land a half-hour drive from Mexico City.
Today Cimmyt researchers grow and test new varieties of corn, or maize, along with the wheat. Their purpose is to contribute to a new green revolution — this time for Africa.
The high-yield wheat and rice of the Green Revolution produced dramatic gains in harvests in Asia and Latin America. But not in Africa. There, the climate was too varied, the soils too degraded. Africa lacked infrastructure such as roads, or India’s railway system, that helped farmers to commercialize their grain. It did not have a network of companies to sell farmers the hybrid seeds for the high-yield varieties, nor the fertilizer and pesticides necessary to take full advantage of those seeds
Asian governments had large programs to provide credit, extension agents to teach new farming methods and subsidized inputs; the Food Corporation of India bought surplus grains at a guaranteed price… MORE
Tina Rosenberg won a Pulitzer Prize for her book “The Haunted Land: Facing Europe’s Ghosts After Communism.” She is a former editorial writer for The Times and the author, most recently, of “Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World” and the World War II spy story e-book “D for Deception.”
Fixes explores solutions to major social problems. Each week, it examines creative initiatives that can tell us about the difference between success and failure. It is written by David Bornstein, author of “How to Change the World,” and co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network, and Tina Rosenberg, contributing writer for The New York Times magazine and author of “Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World.” Readers with ideas for future columns can write to the authors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To receive e-mail alerts for Fixes columns, sign up at solutionsjournalism.org »
Join Fixes on Facebook »