[As ever, this piece is on the BBC News website, where they called it ‘How Broadband is Changing Africa’, though I think the real message is that a broadband Africa will change the Internet…]
Norman Borlaug, whose work in Mexico and India led to the ‘green revolution’ in agricultural production, died last week and was widely commemorated for his important work.
While the introduction of new crops and the use of irrigation, fertilisers and pesticides certainly enabled us to feed millions of people, the crops were delivered at a price, and we should not forget it and Borlaug’s green revolution, like every revolution, had a negative as well as a positive side.
New farming practices create dependencies on machinery and chemicals, and the the patents that protect genetically modified crops limit the ability of farmers to do things like retain seed from one harvest to plant next year, forcing them instead to buy anew each year.
I was reminded of the debate over the green revolution this week as I stood outside my hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, and watched a work gang lay fibre optic cable in a trench they were laboriously digging with pickaxes on the other side of the busy road.