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Patel et al., in the article ‘Ending Africa’s Hunger’, illustrate that about a billion of world population consumes less than 1,900 calories of food per day. This largely deplorable situation necessitates devising of strategies to increase agricultural production. Africa has large agricultural fields and hence, if agricultural productivity per acre of land can be increased, the registered deficits can be tackled.
One of the agricultural productivity improvement strategies introduced is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation initiative called “Green Revolution”. Green Revolution is a multibillion-dollar initiative aimed at revamping the African agriculture sector. The Foundation has already spent more than $ 1.3 billion on agricultural developments and grants in Africa, all with the aim of solving the African hunger problem (Patel et al.).
Despite the millions of dollars being spent, it seems the Green Revolution strategy is not a viable solution. A person’s nutritional demands have expanded overtime due to changing lifestyles and plant genetics. Hunger in Africa results more from soil infertility and ineffective distribution strategies rather than individual farmer efforts.
Green Revolution was a strategy hatched in the United States. The idea was implemented after the USA noted that hunger likely pushed the urban and rural poor population to demand changes in global politics.
After its success in countries such as India, Philippines, Pakistan and Turkey; food production in those countries increased, it was hoped that the idea would yield similar success in Africa. Patel et al. argue that Green Revolution was practised on a large scale in China. However, when China withdrew from the initiative, South America was affected and hunger in South America increased by 20%.
The increase in food production as a result of Green revolution was not that simple, and it was linked to other social issues. For example, peasants were removed from their lands to pave the way for commercial farming. Therefore, green revolution strategies enhanced agricultural production while leading to creation of slums.
Other social and economic problems such as; persistent use of pesticides, reduction in water levels in rivers due to irrigation activities and other unregulated agricultural practices led to environmental degradation (Patel et al.). In India, where the Green Revolution was practised on a large scale, it caused environmental and economic issues prompting farmers to revert to old farming practices.
In Africa, the Green Revolution strategy has extensively embraced technologically driven farming methods approach in achieving its objectives. About $1.3 billion has been invested in technology with about 30% being directed towards developing seed technologies, training women and providing infrastructure to source food locally (Patel et al).
Criticism against Technology-Based Approaches
The article heavily criticizes technology-based approaches to agricultural productivity improvement. However, the kind of technologies employed and their application seems controversial. Lack of credible agricultural research institution and reduced government investment in the agricultural sector in African countries makes such an approach not very credible.
The hunger challenge is caused by lack of strong government instruments in addressing agricultural challenges in the sector. Lack of government commitment is evidenced in the relative government underinvestment in the sector. Lack of capacity by African governments to invest in technology makes the agricultural strategies employed in the green revolution not very sustainable.
Even before the Green Revolution initiative, Africa used to export about 1.3 million tons of foods in 1960’s. Such levels of food production were made possible by the World Bank because it had forced most African countries to accept International Development Loan, which is costly in repayment.
Green Revolution technology presents a different viewpoint or a totally radical departure from traditional approach. It is argued that technology has enhanced more agricultural production through necessitating high yielding seeds and production of synthetic fertilizers to sustain agricultural production. Green Revolution has advanced cause for use of Genetically Modified Seed so as to increase production.
However, generally speaking, genetically modified foodstuffs have social and environmental problems or questions. Embracing technology means issues such as soil and water pollution, use of synthetic fertilizer in agriculture, greenhouse effects and unemployment are unavoidable.
Due to the mentioned issues, many African countries have adamantly held on to or embraced traditional farming methods, which are considered safe and eco-friendly. For example, in Kenya, farmers and researchers have developed a local solution to curb the risk of striga, a parasitic weed, which is a challenge to African farmers. The focus on local and traditional methods is a strategy aimed at enhanced food security in an eco-friendly manner
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The green revolution was well-intended. However, the Green Revolution technology has brought about challenges in various aspects. Implementing the technology in an African context means more people will lose their lands and create a landless society. Employing the strategy leads to need for more land to support large scale commercial farming.
Consequently, the technology will promote or lead to social problems in society. A large percentage of the African population solely depends on agriculture as a source of employment. The Green Revolution technology will decrease direct employment avenues exploited by a majority of Africans.
Patel Raj, Holt-Giménez, Eric and Shattuck, Annie. Ending Africa’s Hunger, 2009 15th July 2011. Web <https://foodfirst.org/>