The origins of the “Green Revolution” can be traced back to the middle of the 1940s when US Vice-President Henry Wallace toured Mexico as a special ambassador.
He was appalled by the state of Mexican agriculture and, upon returning to Washington, urged the Rockefeller Foundation to look at ways of helping the Mexicans.
Independently, the Foundation had begun to realise that its health improvement programmes for developing countries were pointless if those people it saved, then died of starvation or malnutrition.
The term “Green Revolution” was later coined by William Gaud (USAID). He was describing the spectacular increases in cereal crop yields that were achieved in developing countries during the 1960s.
And indeed in 1943 a ‘Green Revolution’ of agriculture began in the crop lands of Mexico, to aid in the nation’s industrial development and economic growth. This led to significant increases in agricultural production between the 1940s and 1960s.
It was mainly a result of programs of agricultural research, extension, and infrastructural development. Fertilizer-responsive and disease-resistant varieties of wheat significantly increased production in Mexico, India, Pakistan, and Turkey and in other parts of the world.
The eventual success of Green Revolution earned its prime promoters like Borlaug, a Noble Peace Prize in 1970.The Green Revolution therefore, allowed food production to keep pace with worldwide population growth.
There have been a number of trials to introduce the revolution in Africa without success. There are thus various reasons that can explain the failure.
Among these are; widespread corruption where a budget allocated for the revolution ends into people’s pockets, insecurity, lack of infrastructure, and a general lack of will on the part of most governments.
Beginning the revolution in Rwanda
The new global spike in food prices and the general scarcity of food is enough to mobilise much-needed attention on the issue.
If countries like India became one of the world’s most successful rice producers and a major rice exporter after averting one of the worst famine threats, why can’t Rwanda do it?
Rwanda needs to begin its own Green Revolution program of plant breeding, irrigation development, and financing of agrochemicals.
There should for example, be research Institutes that can help people produce more grains of rice, maize, wheat and sorghum per plant. The new hybrid grains can be supported by proper application of fertilizers and irrigation.
Technologies demanded by Green Revolution are not too unique to be used by Rwanda. They include; use of pesticides, introducing irrigation projects, and synthetic nitrogen fertilizers.
Our agriculturalists only have to introduce high yielding grain verities that have a reasonable nitrogen absorbing potentials.
For purposes of attaining general sustainable agricultural production, Rwanda has to embrace the idea of cereal production.
Increased yields of rice, maize, and wheat are of paramount importance in realising sustainable agricultural production.
Production that is not sustainable has been a big problem in many developing countries in general, and in Rwanda particularly.
Scientists and laymen, equally agree that, only cereal crops can guarantee long term storage. Maintaining stock all the year helps farmers’ in developing countries, who largely depend on availability of rain, to check hunger.
Farmers can thus use the stored food in dry periods and end the ever threatening problem of famine, malnutrition and hunger.
Rwanda therefore, can develop its own Green Revolution by being more practical than other countries. Much of the revolution has been said and little has been implanted.
This is what has left most of Africa behind in all its economic endeavours. Fortunately the existing political will on part of the government can help Rwanda to prosper in the field faster than one would imagine.
This is only if local leaders who are supposed to be the implementers, understand and put in practice, the idea of Green Revolution.
Localising Green Revolution
Local leaders in decentralised leadership, like the one Rwanda has, are supposed to be the prime implementers of the revolution.
Local leaders must for example, come up with performance contracts (Imihigo) that addresses hunger, famine, malnutrition and the general poverty at their cores.
In Rwanda, this means enabling small-scale farmers to use the most modern scientific methods of growing cereals. There is no doubt that after this, the ultimate goal of dramatically increasing productivity, food security, incomes and livelihoods of small-scale farmers, will be realised.
The government however, has got to come in directly, to address issues pertaining; availing pesticides, agricultural machinery, high quality seeds, etcetera.
Local leaders have the assignment to make sure that there is sound understanding (by the population and leaders themselves), that growth in agricultural productivity is pivotal to the achievement of the Rwandan Millennium Development Goals.
The concept of Green Revolution should therefore be properly understood, localised and ultimately implemented. There is again a need to contextualise the whole idea of the revolution, both by the official of the ministry of agriculture (offering financial and technical hand) and the ministry of local government (offering administrative and financial hand) to farmers in rural Rwanda.
A big percentage of the Rwandan population depends on agriculture, so increases in productivity have a dramatic impact on health and education.