From Green to Evergreen Revolution

Zubair Lone

Green revolution refers to the period when agriculture in India improved due to the adoption of novel methods and technology. This started in the early 1960s and led to an unprecedented increase in the food grain production especially in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, in the early phases.

The main developments that led to the green revolution included improved irrigation infrastructure, use of high-yielding varieties (HYV) of seeds, use of insecticides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers, use of advanced machinery, consolidation of land holdings and land reforms, improved rural infrastructure and supply of agricultural credit.

However, green revolution faced criticism on several grounds, including economic grounds as the input costs were excessively steep for many farmers using HYV seeds, expensive pesticides and fertilizers and irrigation systems; environmental damage; increased regional disparities and restrictive crop coverage.

The call for second green revolution

In spite of such negative impacts, there has been a demand for new green revolution, a second one. In the recent decades, such a demand was raised by the former President of India APJ Abdul Kalam in 2006, followed by a similar call by former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in 2011, and more recently by the present Prime Minister of India.

While the objective of first green revolution was to ensure food security and self-reliance, the second green revolution aims at creating sustainable livelihood security for the poor and eradication of poverty by generating gainful self-employment. Also, while the first green revolution was aimed at undertaking ‘mass production’; the second strives to promote ‘production by masses’. Moreover, this idea is said to be in line with the Gandhian philosophy of involving the rural India and the poor in development, for equitable distribution of national wealth.

Evergreen Revolution

Recently, renowned agriculture scientist MS Swaminathan, also known as the father of Indian green revolution, said that organic agriculture could help us move from green revolution to ever-green revolution. In his UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Madanjeet Singh Memorial Lecture on the topic ‘Achieving the zero hunger challenge’ in 2016, he said that integrating ecology and technology is the way forward towards an evergreen revolution. Highlighting the fact that the world would require 50 per cent more rice in 2030 than what was in 2004, with approximately 30 percent less arable land of today, hence, the need for the sustainable development goal set towards providing food security and nutrition becomes alarmingly pronounced. Stating that green revolution focussed on high-yield and self-reliance, now the need was for an ever green revolution that could be achieved by organic agriculture. Organic Agriculture sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects.

NITI Aayog’s 3-year road map for ‘evergreen revolution’

In a more recent development, NITI Aayog unveiled a three-year roadmap (2017-20) intended to take farm growth to new heights. The roadmap for the next three years lists initiatives for the growth of farm sector and for ensuring that farmers’ income doubles by 2022.

The new initiatives include use of cutting-edge technology to increase farm productivity, promotion of climate-resilient indigenous breeds of cows and buffaloes, launch of a nationwide programme to harvest the advantages of space technology in agriculture and allied sectors, promotion of deep sea fishing, setting up of seed production and processing units at ‘panchayat’ level, increase of cropping intensity by 1 million hectares per year through the utilization of rice fallow areas for pulses and oil-seeds, and consolidation of online trading and inter-market transactions, among others.

Although, the road map looks all good, at least on the paper, it needs to be seen how this road map, together with the ongoing narratives of second green revolution, organic agriculture, sustainability and evergreen revolution pan out in reality for the Indian farmer. More importantly, what becomes of the greater narrative of “doubling Indian farmers income by 2022” needs to intimately dissected, observed and followed up in terms of on-ground implementation and delivery.


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