Accepted paper:

Epic narratives on the Green Revolution in today’s South-South cooperation


Lidia Cabral (Institute of Development Studies)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation will introduce a new research project on the domestic histories of the Green Revolution in Brazil, China and India and how narratives about an epic past have been constructed, contested and are now traveling across the global South as part of South-South cooperation. The theoretical foundations and methodological approach for the research will be overviewed and the role of the ‘epic narrative’ in legitimising a particular kind of agricultural trajectory will be discussed.

Paper long abstract:

After decades of neglect of African agriculture, the beginning of the 21st century was marked by growing attention to this sector, including by new players from Brazil, China and India, who offered technical cooperation, investment and trade deals under the framework of South-South cooperation (SSC). These countries claim to have much to offer to African countries struggling with the challenges of hunger, food insecurity and low yields. After all, they had themselves successfully addressed these challenges back home through public investment in science and technology (S&T) that delivered unprecedented results in production and productivity, particularly in the 1960-80s. This moment in these countries’ histories became known as the Green Revolution (GR). Despite remarkable achievements, criticism to the GR is well established, particularly regarding the unequal distribution of benefits and negative environmental impacts. Yet, its celebration has gained impetus in recent years. In Africa, there have been calls for an African GR. In response, SSC providers have revived their GR histories and narratives of past heroic transformations. These narratives stress the technological dimension of the agricultural transformation and modernisation and the role of scientists who, through innovation, dedication and hard-work, contributed to addressing the calamity of hunger. These ‘epic narratives’ are being used today to emphasise the role that S&T from countries like Brazil, China and India can play today in African agriculture. But how consensual and unequivocal are these narratives and how are they shaping trajectories of agricultural change in Africa?

panel B02
Unequal legacies? The politics of the Green Revolution and South-South technology transfers in Africa [Rising Powers SG] (Paper)