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The Green Revolution That Saved Over 1 Billion People from Starvation

There are people who make the world a better place. One of them was Norman Ernest Borlaug, and he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for saving a billion people from starvation ravaged by drought and overpopulation.

It was predicted in the 1960s that most of the entire Indian subcontinent population would be dead before 1980. The impending deaths, which would not spare other developing nations such as Mexico and Pakistan, were credited to poor food security that could not handle the growing calorie demand. But an American humanitarian and agronomist, Norman Ernest Borlaug, the "Father of the Green Revolution," with the help of many world players responded with global initiatives that mended the fate of over 1 billion people.

Also known as “Third Agricultural Revolution,” the Green Revolution refers to global initiatives established to provide more sustainable agricultural production through technology development, particularly in the developing nations. The initiatives, which was heavily sponsored by both the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation, were basically the development of high-yielding, innovation of management strategies, agricultural infrastructure (such as irrigation) expansion, and the distribution of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and hybridized seeds to farmers.

Disease-resistant food grains mechanized the Green Revolution

With the green revolution being successful in many parts of the introduced nations, except in Africa, a group of high-yielding varieties (HYVs) of cereals developed specially for the initiatives played the primary role. Borlaug has the credit of developing a disease-resistant strain of rice and wheat capable of growing faster and producing a high yield. His research provided newer methods of cultivation and practices that supersede traditional technology to enable the participation of all level of farmers.

Between 1950 and 1970 that the initiatives lasted, most nations benefited gravely, aside from its green environmental impacts. Mexico, India, Philippines, and Brazil represent the top beneficiaries.

The Green Revolution footprints

Through the Green Revolution, Mexico achieved a significant transformation process in its agricultural productivity to resolve its food self-sufficiency problems. The government established the Mexican Agricultural Program (MAP) which is responsible for increasing food productivity and the nation recorded the highest success in wheat production. In 1951, Mexico experienced a 70% increase in wheat production, 80% in 1965 and 90% the following year. The nation where Borlaug began his research became a platform for other areas to benefit from the Green Revolution. Careful cultivation and inputs yielded new breeds of beans, wheat, and maize.

At the brink of mass famine in 1961, India invited “The Father of the Green Revolution” Borlaug to its country and the government collaborated with the Ford Foundation to kick off the initiative in Punjab which has a history of agricultural success. India’s most profound success as the Green Revolution participant came from IR8 – a semi-dwarf variety of rice it imported from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). A 1968 study by an Indian agronomist found that IR8 rice yielded almost 10 tons for each hectare under optimal conditions but managed to produce 5 tons without fertilizer. India was producing almost 2 tons of rice per hectare in the 1960s. The production increased to 6 tons of rice per hectare by the mid-1990s. Through the Green Revolution, India which is now a major rice exporter experienced a gradual decrease in rice cost and became one of the world’s most successful rice producers.

Before the 1960s, a vast inland Cerrado region in Brazil was tagged unsuitable for farming due to the soil’s poor nutrients and high acid content. The initiatives reinvented the land quality by pouring large quantities of pulverized limestone to neutralize the acidity. The process saw many years of efforts to reduce the land’s acidity by pouring over 15 million tons of lime. These efforts were not futile. Brazil is now the world’s second largest soybean exporter. This has also made the nation the world’s largest exporter of poultry and beef, setting itself as the platform for nearby nations such as Argentina to experience boom in soybean production.

Through technologies and the development of high-yielding varieties, the Green Revolution succeeded in arresting widespread food shortage on a global scale. The initiatives could be dubbed a movement that has saved mankind due to its durability, every life has benefited, even after saving over 1 billion people from starvation.

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