Courtesy Reuters

The Agricultural Revolution in Asia

For those whose thinking of Asia is conditioned by the food crises of 1965 and 1966, the news of an agricultural revolution may come as a surprise. But the change and ferment now evident in the Asian countryside stretching from Turkey to the Philippines, and including the pivotal countries of India and Pakistan, cannot be described as anything less. This rural revolution, largely obscured in its early years by the two consecutive failures of the monsoon, is further advanced in some countries-Pakistan, the Philippines and India-than in others, but there is little prospect that it will abort, so powerful and pervasive are the forces behind it.

That the agricultural revolution of the less developed world began in Asia is fortunate, since it is both densely populated and has a rapid rate of population growth. In this respect, Asia is unique among the world's major geographic regions. Western Europe is heavily populated but its population grows slowly; Latin America's population is expanding rapidly but as yet most of the region is sparsely populated. Fifty-six percent of the world's 3.3 billion people live in Asia; one-third of the world's population, an estimated 1.1 billion, live in Asia outside China. It is this part of the world and this third of mankind that this article deals with.

Historically, as Asia's population increased, it was supported by traditional agriculture on an ever-expanding area of cropland. As the postwar population explosion gained momentum in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the supply of new land was used up, but the productivity of land under cultivation increased little. The result was a slowdown in the rate of gain in food production and a growing concern that population growth and food production were on a collision course.

The gravity of the situation came into focus as the monsoon on the Indian subcontinent failed two years running, in 1965 and 1966. The United States responded by shipping the equivalent of nearly one-fifth of its wheat harvest, feeding sixty million Indians for nearly two years. This

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