Feb. 19, 2015, Washington, D.C.—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.
The research, which focused on Ghana and was originally published in the journal Food Policy, suggests that Africa must instead develop new technologies to improve the output of tree and root crops that are abundant in the region and to reduce the need for manual labor.
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 fertilizer and irrigation, techniques that required cheap labor. African countries sought to mimic their success, but the adoption of similar policies failed to increase agricultural output.
Today, African countries have witnessed a population explosion and land available for farming has decreased–spurring renewed optimism that the time is ripe for a Green Revolution. But labor has not become abundant and cheap.
“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.
On February 19, Nin-Pratt will receive 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.
The research focused on agriculture in Ghana, where small, low-income farmers predominate and fertilizer use is limited, but could be applicable to other African nations as well. Ghana was chosen for the study due to its fast population growth and remarkable agricultural performance.
“Once again, the renewed optimism about the possibility of an Asian-style Green Revolution taking root in Africa overlooks some of the structural characteristics of African agriculture,” Nin-Pratt said.
“The population growth and increased population density we see across Africa may not be resulting in low labor costs,” he added. “For agriculture, this means farmers may not be keen to adopt the kind of labor-intensive technology that featured in the Asian Green Revolution.”
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. IFPRI was established in 1975 to identify and analyze alternative national and international strategies and policies for meeting the food needs of the developing world, with particular emphasis on low-income countries and on the poorer groups in those countries. www.ifpri.org.