free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 76. THE GREEN REVOLUTION NEVER CAME TO AFRICA

Saturday, September 03, 2005


The Green Revolution is a critical linchpin in the peak oil die-off theory; it is what connects food and oil. The idea is that the Green Revolution used fossil fuels (fertilizer, pesticide, mechanization, transport) to increase agricultural productivity, and this increased productivity is what allowed the world population to overshoot the earth's carrying capacity. Without the "phantom carrying capacity" provided by oil, mass die-off would have happened decades ago.

Africa poses a big problem for this theory. For one thing, Africa's population is growing quickly:
Population in Africa has more than doubled since 1970, and is growing around 2.7% per year (the fastest growth in the world).Source
And yet Africa (outside of North Africa, Nigeria and South Africa) uses almost no fossil fuels at all. According to the 2004 BP Statistical Review, the entire continent of Africa (excluding Algeria, South Africa and Egypt) uses only 1.3mbd (million barrels per day), i.e. about 1/8th the amount the U.S. alone uses every day just to fuel cars. So it is clear that fossil fuel did not cause, and does not support, the rapid growth of African population.

Furthermore, it turns out that the Green Revolution started in Mexico, and spread to India, Pakistan and China, but it never got to Africa:
The failure of Africa's Green Revolution

The failure to introduce the Green Revolution on a large scale in Africa
in the 1960s and 1970s is due to a several factors.
Firstly, rice, maize and wheat were the predominant Green Revolution crops, of which only maize is a principal staple food in some African countries. In general, African diets are based primarily on grains such as millet and sorghum or on roots and tubers such as cassava, yams and sweet potatoes. These crops have never received much attention from scientists and were no part of the Green Revolution.
Secondly, much of the African continent has infertile soils, severe pest and disease problems and little water available for agriculture. The use of a narrow genetic base variety and practise of monoculture, all characteristics of the Green Revolution, increases the risks of large areas of crops being devastated by pests, diseases and crop failure. In West Africa, for example, disease and pest problems have hindered a successful introduction of improved Indian sorghum and millet varieties. Water control problems have prevented the introduction of high-yielding dwarf rice varieties. Only 3 to 5 per cent of Africa's cultivated areas are irrigated, compared to 20 per cent of India's cropland. After 10 years of experimenting, only 2 imported rice varieties out of 2,000 tested performed as well as local varieties. Additionally, some of the newly introduced varieties were not easily accepted by local people who preferred the traditional varieties.
Thirdly, Africa's poor transportation and commercial infrastructure makes inputs not easily accessible by all farmers, and harvests can not get to the markets on time. Recent experiences from a project in Ghana, supported by the Sasakawa Africa Association, headed by Norman Borlaug, have shown that high increases in agricultural output can be achieved. According to Borlaug, the main problems are how to ensue that fertilizers reach the farmers and how to bring their produce to the urban markets.
In India and Mexico, unlike many African countries, appropriate investments in rural roads were undertaken by governments with assistance from international donor organizations. The assistance of the donor organizations, notably the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation, was predominantly directed towards the areas which were important to the US interests. Africa, historically linked more to Europe than to the USA, therefore had no priority.
Fourthly, many African countries have a lower labour/land ratio, less human and institutional capacity, and have economic limitations. While many Latin American and Asian countries have large economies, the many African economies are small and even more dependent on the export of primary commodities. Besides, their open economies are more susceptible to fluctuations in international prices. Government revenues and, consequently, agricultural research budgets, depend mainly on export earnings and are highly unstable as a result. Prior investments in human capital and development of training and research institutions by the Green Revolution countries of Asia and Latin America contributed to their success in agricultural research. India, for example, began to build agricultural colleges in the 1920s under the British colonial government. By the 1960s Indian policy makers and scientists had acquired extensive knowledge about the nature of problems facing agriculture in that country, about where the biggest pay­offs of research would likely be, and about which parts of the country had the largest agricultural potential.
In contrast, many African countries have, until recently, devoted little investment to the training of agricultural scientists or building research institutions. The lack of trained personnel and knowledge of local agricultural conditions severely limits the effectiveness of foreign assistance and places too much reliance on expatriates.
African countries have, compared to India, not such a strong agricultural policy. India's state advisory services have been much more geared to serve not only the large­scale but also the small-scale farmers, who make up the majority of the rural population in many developing countries.Source

The argument that die-off will occur due to a failure of oil-based Green Revolution agriculture does not apply to rural Africa.


At Monday, September 5, 2005 at 5:59:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Omnitir said...

How do you account for the (literally) millions of people currently starving to death in places like Niger, because they can no longer afford to buy food? As oil has rocketed to it current price, the cost of food has also risen, and people that could barely afford to eat before cannot afford to eat now.

Isn’t this relationship between rising oil prices and rising food prices, which would be causing a much larger dieoff then what we are seeing if it weren’t for UN relief, strong evidence supporting dieoff theory?

Even if the green revolution theory is proven incorrect, that won’t help the starving masses of the world, will it? Regardless of wether it was caused by more expensive agriculture/transport or some hidden agent, all that matters to the starving is that their food is now unaffordable.

At Wednesday, December 7, 2005 at 11:35:00 AM PST, Anonymous Mel Turpen said...

Quite agreed.

At Tuesday, May 1, 2007 at 7:33:00 AM PDT, Blogger jason said...

Except African countries tend not to grow their own food. They grow cash crops, which they sell in order to buy millet, wheat and corn, the latter mostly grown in the United States and exported to Africa.


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