The so-called "Green Revolution" will not work for Africa, and it is questionable whether it ever worked for Asia, says a French agronomist.
Yves Savidan, who has spent eight years in Africa as a scientist with the French Research Institute, an agency similar to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, takes issue with Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug's touting of the potential of a "Green Revolution" for hunger-plagued Subsaharan Africa.The Green Revolution involves using specially developed high-yielding hybrid seeds in conjunction with modern techniques of fertilizing, weed control and irrigation to dramatically increase production. Projects have been developed in Ghana, Sudan and Zambia and are starting in Tanzania.
"What Borlaug is recommending is nothing more than the transfer of agricultural practices valid in the United States to extremely arid regions of Africa," Savidan said. "Borlaug doesn't know about Africa. He also gives the idea that the Green Revolution has not been tested in Africa. It's been applied many times in many African countries. In all cases, it was a failure."
The Sahel, the belt below the Sahara stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia, has the most severe environmental conditions, Savidan said.
In the Sahel, traditional agricultural practices provide the best success, he said. The traditional varieties are not terribly productive, but the heterogeneity provided by seeds gathered by the farmers each year provides a safeguard against explosive attacks of pests and disease.
South of the Sahel, where conditions are more favorable, Green Revolution techniques may work for a couple of years, then failure is the rule, Savidan said.