The Green Revolution: Growth and Political change affecting Rural Conditions

By Mohamed Lahlou

The Green Revolution is considered one of the most ground breaking technological revolutions ever discovered. It has provided many ways to produce higher yields of crop per hectare of land used and has provided many methods that make preparing and maintaining these lands a lot easier. The utilization of these techniques made farming more profitable and reliable, increasing the total amount of grains and food that could be produced. The Green Revolution has affected large third world countries the most, helping deal with the food crisis and famine the people of these countries were experiencing. The efficiency of farming brought many changes to these agriculture dependent countries. Farming became a more profitable and more desirable business, while allowing for countries to handle and maintain higher populations.

However, the effects of a higher population and better farming techniques are both positive and negative. These observed effects have invoked a great debate about whether the green revolution hurt the lower class and rural people with the population growth and the growth of agriculture or if it benefitted them. In India for example, a lot of political reform concerning agriculture occurred, causing a great migration of its people.

The question that this information and changes bring up, is how does population growth and political reform fueled by the green revolution reflect and impact the living conditions of third world countries, specifically rural areas. Rajasthan, a district in India, will be the case study that will display the effects of population growth and political reform and will be the basis for predicted general affects caused by the green revolution in third world countries and rural areas.

Rajasthan is the largest district in India, ranked to have the 8th largest population out of all of India’s districts. This land is composed of desert land, mountain ranges, and forests. The Aravalli range is the most fertile and watered land in Rajasthan. However, farmland and crops are grown all over the region, due to recent technology advances.

However, before the green revolution, Rajasthan was a livestock agriculture focus society than crop agriculture. That means that a large part of the lands were reserved and maintained so that livestock could graze (Jodha, N.S). Communities had common property that was available for any mobile livestock to graze when they could not survive off of personal grazing fields during a drought. These communities were so livestock dependent that they would allow the livestock to eat the overgrowth that was left after harvesting of crops, sunce they had to wait a while before they could start planting again. These societies really put livestock as their primary source of income and food.

When the green revolution came about there was a change in these communities in Rajasthan that were tracked from 1940s to 1970s. The green revolution caused the communities to become crop agriculture societies and cause the decline of common properties. Livestock were not able to feed off of the growth on the crop fields because tractors allowed for farmers to start cultivating and preparing the lands for next season as soon as they finished their harvest (Jodha, N.S). The common properties declined significantly due to peoples’ lack of contribution, to help maintain these common properties becoming overused and unregulated. Pastures became barren patches and edible species became replaced with non-edible species in these common prooerties. The overall quality of land degraded significantly during the influence and implementation of the green revolution technology. There are recorded declines in the availability and quality of timber, top feed, perennial grasses, and gum from 1950 to 1970 (Jodha, N.S). Trees had become shorter and bushy due to the exhaustion of the land and the poor maintenance of the overall environment. The degradation of the environment can be seen as a negative effect for the people who live in rural areas or farming lands that do not make a living off of crop agriculture. So these people seem to suffer and struggle during these times because of the great demand for crops. While crop agriculture seemed to rise during this time, other natural resource dependent jobs and livestock farming declined significantly.

Three factors influenced by the green revolution are believed to fuel the decline in the quality of the environment and severe stagnation of other natural resources dependent jobs. These three factors are political reform, population growth, and the growth and focus on a commercialization economy and they completely changed the population’s focus and methods concerning land and natural resources. These factors are important because the decline in other rural jobs opportunities other than crop farming, lead to a migration out of these rural areas to other places. These people would migrate to growing industrial cities or growing and heavily populated crop farming regions. However these migration patterns will be covered later in this essay.

During the early 1950s, there were institutional changes in the form of land reform which help the green technology easily spread and empower the lower class. Before the changes in the 1950s, the feudal lord system dominated and controlled the rural farmlands (Jodha, N.S). The lords followed the exact feudal system implemented in early Rome and Greece. The people worked these lands to produce crops and then about 25%-50% of their crops were taken as tax imposed by the lords of the land. These peasants were basically stuck in this system, where they could not arise to any considerable amount of wealth. However, the feudal lords did use their control and part of their wealth to maintain and regulate the common properties. Once the feudal system was broken up and the land was redistributed to the peasants, the regulation of common property was almost nonexistent. This was due to the people now being in charge of maintaining these properties. The amount of common property shrunk also because some of the land that was not farmable was now farmable with the green revolution technology.

The population growth was very significant on the conditions of Rajasthan. The population increase caused a significant rush to use land for crop farming, converting as much common property into crop land. Rajasthan experience a 180 percent population increase from 1901 to 1972 (Jodha, N.S), most of it during the green revolution. Specifically, in 1951 to 1961 and 1961 to 1971, Rajasthan experienced a population increase of 29.8 percent and 27.9 percent respectively during those years. The amount of crops produced during the 1950s increased by 50%, meaning that Rajasthan was becoming a cropland dependent society (Jodha, N.S).

Along with this population growth causing a focus on the cropland agriculture, the lack of a caste system, caused these people to choose to farm crops instead of continuing their crafts and trades. These societies, disregard and forgot their past tradition, for the chance to earn a substantial living. Which could be considered a positive or negative affect. It is positive because the once peasantry people are now growing in wealth and own their own land now. However, they have given up their past traditions and forgotten this past culture to get to where they are. Deciding whether the change of tradition and social values are a good thing or not is a hard conclusion to make because of the benefits that have arisen from it.

The green revolution caused an increase in commercialization of the desert economy’s general activities and common property resources-based activities (Jodha, N.S). This lead to the creation of better transportation facilities, so that the crops could make it to the market to be sold, to satisfy the demand for crops. Livestock became less prevalent because of how hard it was to maintain them, due to little grazing land available. The change of the market price for livestock products really reflects the change of availability of these products. From 1950-1970 the price for livestock products increase about 350-500 percent depending on the product (Jodha, N.S). So livestock products seem to become a delicacy that most people are not able to afford due to the decrease in supply. Crops became cheaper in the Indian market, however since the green revolution allows for a larger crop production, people are still able to make a sizeable profit with this business.

These factors hurt the livestock agriculture because they were running out of resources for their animals to graze, since all available land was being used for farming crops. However, the people who invested in crop agriculture were making big profits from these lands. So they lived in better conditions and had more wealth to live more comfortably than they were under the feudal system. However, it seems to be at the cost of the livestock industry and the feudal lords. So, Rajasthan experienced a change in lifestyle and a change in their trade focus due to the green revolution. Though it seems that many people are living better conditions than before, if environmental health is not considered a factor. However, environmental issues have always seem to have arisen with the increasing use of technology, allowing us to get more from the environment than ever before.

The migration patterns of the people Rajasthan due to the green revolution reflect the change in opportunity available due to the green revolution. The migration patterns also reflect the change in social values and focus. There are many migration patterns recorded in Rajasthan than can be directly related to the green revolution.

In the 1970s, it was shown that the less developed agricultural societies, who did not or could not afford to use the technology discovered had higher migration rates. The people who migrated from these areas though, would migrate to more industrialized and better agricultural sectors, to find work to sustain their families back at home (Y. Haberfeld et al). These people would work and live at their jobs for about 5-6 months, then come back to their village to help them with agricultural work. Interesting enough, these people were making more money than those who stayed in these technologically underdeveloped area. The observation of different living conditions are made to follow the demand for work in technologically developed areas. These people who are migrant workers experienced better living conditions than those who did not have family member who left the area to work. However, these migrant workers spend half of the year separated from family and probably living with minimal expenses when living at their job.

There were major migration towards cities during the green revolution due to some failures in agriculture domain, due to the major drought in the 1970s (R. B. Mandal). In the 1970s, all of India was in a state of major migration. Rajasthan had the seventh most number of immigrants coming into its district, most of which moved into large cities like Jaipur. Rajasthan also experienced a large migration out of its district from the rural areas. For example the Marwari people, had a substantial amount of its people migrate to large cities out of Rajasthan. It was found that most of the Marwari people were now found in Bhagalpur in Bihar, Calcutta in West Bengal, and Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh (R. B. Mandal). There seems to be a large migration of these people how are trying to find better opportunities for them. The living conditions for these people could change significantly in style, going from low populace and slow areas, to more populated and upbeat cities. They also have smaller living conditions, since they live in the city now. These people could experience conditions that they might consider better or worst depending on how bad they were off before compared to where they live now. However, the main point of the migration patterns is to point out that the green revolution caused an increase in population growth overall, and caused the substantial growth of cities since they are able to sustain a larger population. India population increased from 319 million to 601 million from 1940 to 1975 (Jan Lahmeyer). That is a doubling of the population in just 35 years. That means that India has get used to the great change in population, which caused the growth of urban areas or more densely populated areas.

As Peter says in his article “Urbanization and Labor Effects of the Green Revolution”, there seems to be a major correlation between the limits and stagnation of the rural labor demands and the growth of urbanization. In Rajasthan, there was great migration to major cities in Rajasthan and cities outside of Rajasthan (Ronald Skeldon). This rise in urbanization can be correlated with the decline of agriculture livestock and the availability of good land that had not been exhausted of it nutrients. Since the opportunities were not growing in rural areas, due to the limited amount of land available for crop agriculture, we see migration to urban areas in hopes of finding jobs in unskilled labor industries. Ronald’s article, “On Migration Patterns in India during the 1970s”, sees a noticeable rural to urban migration in the 1970s, attributing to about half of the urban growth during this decade. In the 1960s there was some noticeable rural to urban migration, having 21% of rural migration was to urban areas for inner state migration. However, for interstate migration about 48% of all migration was from rural to urban areas. With the decline of rural employment due to the limited land available for agriculture, data suggests that there is a migration of rural people who are looking for better opportunities in urban areas. However, it is important to note that not all migration was from rural to urban areas, the other significant other half of the statistics was migration from rural to rural migration, where people are still looking for job in which they are trained for. Agricultural jobs are limited and based on how much land can actually be cultivated, so overtime Ronald’s data suggests that migration leans towards rural to urban migration (Richard Roda). Urbanization during this time period can be attributed to the rapid population growth and the limited availability of rural employment. The droughts of the 1970s mention earlier in this essay specifically shows the limits of rural employment because when the droughts did hit there was a major migration from rural to urban areas as Ronald’s data suggests. This drought shows how fragile and limited the rural employment for crop farming is. And with other rural natural resources jobs significantly declining, there are no other opportunities. Therefore, urbanization can be seen as a direct consequence of the limits of agriculture coupled with the rapid population growth that is occurring at the same time.

The political changes related to agriculture and the great population growth caused by the Green Revolution, caused major changes in living conditions. Rural conditions changed tradition to adapt to the demand for crops the technological change caused. Also those who did not take in the technological development, had to migrate to find jobs and sustain their families.  For urban areas there was an increase in population due the migration from rural to urban area, meaning that the city became more crowded or expanded. There does not seem to be much change in the urban living conditions other than a greater influx of people who are looking to make the living. Also the urban areas growing in size, to accommodate the increase in population in the areas. The living conditions for the people of India and third world countries seemed to have changed to follow the technology and free market approach. So it could be assumed that their conditions are improved for those who become a part of the crop agriculture, while other who are in other natural resource dependent jobs, suffer from the degradation of the environment and availability of useable land for their trade, as shown through the livestock agriculture decline. These people make up a part of the people who migrate to the cities looking for new opportunities.

Overall, the rural growth and limitation caused the urbanization, moving the people of India around searching for new opportunities. These opportunities seemed to be found by the growing industries that come up around the end of the green revolution and after the green revolution. However, the Green Revolution did improve the living standard in rural areas, which was very low before all the changed incurred by the Green Revolution. Still, those who could not find the opportunity in the rural areas, were forced to migrate to urban areas. The green revolution brought a lot change, which leads up to the modern urban and rural societies present.

Work Cited

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Haberfeld, Y., and Et al. “Seasonal Migration of Rural Labor in India.” Population Research and Policy Review 18.5 (1999): 473-89. Print.

Harry M. Cleaver, “The Contradictions of the Green Revolution” The American Economic Review 62:1 (March),177-186. .

Jan Lahmeyer, “historical demographical data of the whole country.” populstat. n.d. Web. 3 May 2013. <;.

Jim Bentall and Stuart Corbridge. “Urban-Rural Relations, Demand Politics and the ‘New Agrarianism’ in Northwest India: The Bharatiya Kisan Union” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 21:1, 27-48. .

Jodha, N.S. 1985, “Population Growth and the Decline of Common Property Resources in Rajasthan, India,” Population and Development Review 11:2 (June), 247-264.

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Paul R. Ehrlich and John P. Holdren “Impact of Population Growth” Science, New Series 171:3977 (March) 1212-1217. .

Rhoda, Richard. “Rural Development and Urban Migration: Can We Keep Them down on the Farm?” International Migration Review 17.1 (1983): 34-64. Print.

Skeldon, Ronald, “On Migration Patterns in India during the 1970s” Population and Development Review (December), 759-779.