History: The Green Revolution in Pakistan

By Dustin Dwyer

The Green Revolution had effects and consequences spanning the entire globe. With an increase in agricultural trade of about 4.3% a year between the years of 1960-1980 the Green Revolution allowed for an increase in agricultural production in any country that employed it (Kaul 386). The ability to produce crops at any time of the year in an increased capacity far exceeding previous farming techniques was seen as an innovation of the ages. Yet the results of the Green Revolution were always promising at the start, as years went on they rarely lived up to the hopes. This is the case for the Green Revolution in Pakistan; it started out promising with high yields of production and a boom to the economy that may actually have been worth the risk, but as time went on the Pakistan government was unable to sustain this output. In this essay will be discussed the start of the Green Revolution in Pakistan, its initial effects, the following decline of productivity, and the overall effects it had on the economy.

First, the start of the Green Revolution in Pakistan. Pakistan adopted the technique of using dwarf varieties of grain in the 1960’s. These new types of grain were more responsive to fertilizer and thus would be able to grow in harsh environments as long as there was a source of fertilizer (Child 275). Using this new type of grain Pakistan was able to outperform most of South Asia in the starting years of the Green Revolution, with an increase in productivity as well as being able to sell surplus crops to neighboring countries. Pakistan’s main crop that they were able to better cultivate with the new farming techniques was wheat; the production of wheat increased by 79 percent in the first couple years (Child 275). Naturally with the ability to produce more crops the need for more workers to farm these crops arose. Thus the agricultural economy grew and allowed for rural residents of Pakistan to have an increase in income as well. The exact numbers and various other effects to the economy will be discussed later, for now it is enough to say that the demand for workers increased. The agricultural output changed dramatically, with a 3-6 percent annual increase during the period 1961-1965 with the peak annual increase being 15 percent from 1967-1968 (Child 249). Along with an increase in crops, there was an increase in the things that are necessary for farming. Pakistan saw an increase in tube wells, supply water, and ground water supply during the period of 1967-1976, these things allowing for the better irrigation of the farmland (Byerlee 1347).

pic 1

(Evenson 361)


The above chart shows the average output of crops for countries during the Green Revolution era. It can be seen from 1965-1980 the production of crops doubles and then the average increases slowly from then on.

The increase in agricultural productivity made the production of more crops a priority to the Pakistan government; as more crops meant more money. Wheat in particular was very profitable from 1967 to 1970 (Mohammad 495). The production of wheat nearly doubled from 1960 to 1970 as can be seen in the chart below.

(Ahmad 93)

(Ahmad 93)

The government funded several developmental programs to make the production of crops easier for the farmers. This included the creation of surface and ground water aquifers which allowed for better irrigation systems in rural areas, the promotion of fertilizer and HYV (High Yielding Varieties of crops) use, and the introduction of tractors to facilitate the increased production of crops (Chaudry 173). The government also made policy changes which allowed small scale agricultural industries to thrive (Child 275). Thus the Pakistan government nurtured its new source of income, trying to construct a profitable agricultural system that would last. Unfortunately for Pakistan the Green Revolution would fail in their country as it did in so many others.

Why the Green Revolution failed in Pakistan can be attributed to many reasons. The first would be resource degradation, which is the decrease in fertility of the land producing a lower yield in crops. Below is a chart showing the annual production of wheat in Pakistan. It can be seen as the Green Revolution starts the annual growth rate is 5.1 percent yet by the year 1976 the rate drops to 1.4 percent. This was caused by several factors including resource degradation.

(Byerlee 1347)

(Byerlee 1347)


Due to poor farming techniques the farmers of Pakistan overused the land thus rendering it less fertile and unable to yield large amounts of crops. Overall the decrease in productivity was about a third compared to the initial production rates (Murgai 214). Resource degradation was not a problem for just Pakistan, many countries in South Asia and the Middle East had similar problems when they started using the Green Revolution techniques. This problem however was not easily solved; to fix it would require the introduction of new farming techniques and the creation of better irrigation systems to keep the land fertile. Neither of these Pakistan was able to accomplish and thus resource degradation was a major contributor to the decline of the crop yield in Pakistan (Murgai 208).

Another reason for the decline of the Green Revolution in Pakistan was due to the fact that Pakistan was unable to use genetically engineered crops. In the 1980’s when genetically engineered crops were being used by other Southern Asian countries Pakistan was using hardier forms of crops but not the genetically modified versions that produced even higher yields. This is because Pakistan was not able to create the regulatory systems necessary to monitor the usage of genetically modified crops along with the fact they were unable to create them. The obvious reasons for why this had a negative effect is that these crops produced higher yields, but another impact of the inability to use genetically modified crops was that neighboring countries did not have the same restrictions.  In fact most of the other countries in South Asia used genetically modified crops and were thus able to produce and sell more, lowering the cost of these crops on the international market. The lower price of crops affected Pakistan greatly because they were not able to produce at the same rate as their neighbors. Thus the inability to use genetically modified crops contributed to the decline of the Green Revolution in Pakistan (Evenson 3).

The final reason for the decline of the Green Revolution was the policies (or lack of policies) implemented by the Pakistan government. As stated before poor irrigation and bad farming techniques led to resource degradation in Pakistan. The Pakistan government could have easily implemented policies to prevent this outcome yet they failed to do so. Another fault was the inability of the government to introduce genetically modified crops that would allow for a greater yield. The creation of regulatory policies to oversee the usage of genetically modified crops could have increased production of crops greatly allowing Pakistan to compete with its neighboring countries on the international market. The final failing of the government was the lack of investment in infrastructure. In India the creation and advancement of their infrastructure allowed the facilitation of agricultural and economic growth. If Pakistan had followed this example and expanded their infrastructure then perhaps they would have seen a similar increase in the growth of their agricultural production (Murgai 214).

The decline of the Green Revolution in Pakistan is not unique.  In fact many third world countries were unable to successfully maintain initial production rates due to similar problems that Pakistan experienced, these problems relating to poor irrigation, bad farming techniques, and the lack of government policies to facilitate growth. Most of these nations had hoped that the Green revolution would be the key to creating a constant flow of money into their economies as well as increasing the production of crops each year. Looking back now it is obvious that most countries did not obtain this agricultural productivity. Though the agricultural productivity did not last as long as hoped, the Green Revolution had positive effects in Pakistan that involved the economy and its increase in size, a response to the increase of agricultural growth. It can be said that perhaps the positive effect the Green Revolution had on the Pakistan economy was just as impressive as the impact it had on the production of wheat.

The economy of Pakistan received a boost from the Green Revolution that was quite impressive. In face the per capita income increased by 27 percent during the period of 1963-1972 (Guisinger 1272). This increase in income was seen mostly in the rural areas where farmers and farm hands produced the new crops. The positive effects on the economy were of course a natural outcome of the increase in the production of cash crops, which in the case of Pakistan was wheat. As Pakistan’s crop yields soared in the 60’s and 70’s Pakistan sold its surplus goods allowing the economy to grow as well (Landau 37).

pic 4

(Ahmad 93)

From the chart it can be seen that due to the Green Revolution the income to the agricultural sector doubled. It is thus proven with this data that the income of Pakistan as a whole was increased due to the Green Revolution, whether or not that income was distributed evenly is another matter.

There has been dispute on whether or not the increase in income distribution was seen equally throughout all income levels or whether only the rich landowners prospered from the Green Revolution. Based on the information about income levels at the time it is more plausible that all levels of society prospered from the growth in agriculture not just the rich. As seen from the chart below which compares the increase of small landowning farmers compared to larger farmers it can be seen that the Green revolution increased the small farmer’s income more than it did the large farmer (by percentage).

(Ahmad 99)

(Ahmad 99)

Below is another chart that shows the relative income increase between a landlord and those who work on his land. It can be seen that over the course of the Green Revolution the rate at which income increased was greater for people who were considered to be lower class workers such as peasants or tenants.

(Ahmad 99)

(Ahmad 99)

From the above two charts the result can be determined that the Green Revolution was not just profitable for the wealthy by making them wealthier, its impact was spread to the lower class, to the people who worked on the farms harvesting the crops. In fact based off these results the Green Revolution helped close the income gap problem in Pakistan.

From these facts listed it can be said that the Green Revolution provided a short burst of large scale production of various forms of crops. Along with this increase in crop yield and agriculture there was also an increase to the economy especially to peasant farmers who acquired larger incomes from the increased production of crops. Even after the Green Revolution started to falter in the mid 1970’s the effect it had on the economy lasted beyond that. The increase in per capita did not decline along with the Green Revolution decline and the income gap which was lessened during the agricultural boom was also not widened when it lulled. Thus I argue that the positive effects the Green Revolution had on the Pakistan economy were not negated and in fact the effects on the economy have prevailed long after the fire that spawned them puttered out. Finally, the Green Revolution overall had a positive impact on Pakistan even though the movement failed agriculturally, the economic aspect more then made up for this.

Works Cited

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Revolution Was Short Run Phenomena In The Development Process Of Pakistan: A Lesson For Future.” Pakistan Institute of Development Economics Islamabad Pakistan 2004. Print.

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Impact of the Seed-fertilizer Revolution in Pakistan revisited.” World Development Volume 22, Issue 9 September 1994: Pages 1345-1361. Print.

Chaudhry, M. Ghaffar. “Green Revolution and Redistribution of Rural Incomes: Pakistan’s

Experience.” The Pakistan Development Review, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Autumn 1982): pages 173-205. Print.

Child, Frank C. and Hiromitsu Kaneda. “Links to the Green Revolution: A Study of Small-Scale,

Agriculturally Related Industry in the Pakistan Punjab.” Economic Development and Cultural Change , Vol. 23, No. 2 (Jan., 1975), pp. 249-275. Print.

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Pakistan.” World Development Vol. 6: pages 1271-1280. Print.

Kaul, Tashi. “The Elimination of Export Subsidies and the Future of Net-Food Importing

Developing Countries in the WTO.” Fordham International Law Journal Volume 24, Issue 1 2000 Article 16. Print.

Mohammad, Faiz and Mian M. Aslam. “Wealth Effects of the Green Revolution in Pakistan.”

The Pakistan Development Review , Vol. 25, No. 4, Papers and Proceedings of the Third Annual General Meeting of the Pakistan Society of Development Economists (August 10-12, 1986) Part II (Winter 1986), pp. 489-513. Print.

Murgai, Rinku, Mubarik Ali, and Derek Byerlee. “Productivity Growth and Sustainability in

Post-Green Revolution Agriculture: The Case of the Indian and Pakistan Punjabs.” The World Bank Observer, vol. 16, no. 2 (Fall 2001), pp. 199-218. Print.

Landau, Daniel. “Government and Economic Growth in the Less Developed Countries: An Empirical Study for 1960-1980.” Economic Development and Cultural Change, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Oct., 1986): pages 35-75. Print.