How green was the revolution

The Green Revolution Reconsidered: The Impact of High Yielding Rice Varieties in South India Peter B R Hazell and C Ramaswamy Oxford University Press Rs 180

By Abhijit Sen
Published: Saturday 15 April 1995

THIS is a collecton of papers originating from a study of the North Arcot district in the early '80s, undertaken under the auspices of the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to assess the impact of technological change in agriculture.

With a reliable benchmark survey, adequate funding and an international team of well-known researchers, the study had the potential to be a landmark among the many assessments of the green revolution. But while it draws out the usually neglected aspect of the impact of agrarian change on the rural non-agricultural sectors, it does not add much to our existing knowledge -- in part because the lag between research and publication has reduced its usefulness.

The book has 2 parts. The first deals with changes in agricultural technology and their impact on output and the socioeconomic features of the villages surveyed. The 2nd part deals with the indirect effects of agricultural growth on the region's non-farm economy.

The essays by P K Aiyasamy, Jon Hariss, Pinstrup-Andersen and Maurice Jaramillo cover the obligatory areas of production, employment, wages and nutrition. The analysis is competent but hardly original and the conclusions not particularly notable. Strikingly, the details on output growth do not suggest that the region covered was a particularly good example of a prime "green revolution" area. Moreover, there is no analysis of the possible impact on the environment or of the sustainability of the new technology in this relatively arid district.

The 2nd part, containing essays by Barbara Hariss, Neal Bllivan and Sudhir Wanmali, is more interesting. Based on a regional Social Accounting Matrix (SAM), the analysis attempts a comprehensive coverage of the district economy, especially, in terms of the linkage between various sectors.

Purely in purely terms, the data in this section suggests that the non-agricultural economy, particularly services and trade, was more dynamic than the agricultural props. If so, the choice of the district may have militated against the scope of the study.

---Writer Abhijit Sen is a professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
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