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close this bookExploding the Hunger Myths - High School Curriculum (FF, 1987, 173 p.)
close this folderLesson 4: Is technology the answer?
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentActivity 1: Is more always better?
View the documentActivity 2: Technology on trial - One person's story

Activity 1: Is more always better?

Students will learn about the Green Revolution and technology using short readings containing maps and graphs. Students can see that increased agricultural production may not benefit hungry people or poor farmers.


· To become aware of changes that have occurred in two countries after the introduction of new agricultural technologies
· To interpret graphs and tables concerning the Green Revolution
· To stimulate discussion on the effects of agricultural change on the lives of people


· Student handouts:

The Muda Valley of Malaysia
Muda Before and After
The Green Revolution Comes to India

· Wall map


Fifty minutes if class works as a group to analyze and discuss graphs. This activity may be done as a homework assignment.


Study questions can be turned in.


agriculture, biotechnology, fertilizer, harvest, irrigation, production, technology, traditional varieties, underdeveloped country, yield


1. Introduce the topic of technology to the class. What is it? Can the students think of examples of technological change that they have seen? Computers, spy technology, and artificial hearts are examples they might name. Is technology always a good thing? What are examples of positive and negative outcomes of technology? (Students may name pollution and higher prices as negative outcomes. Why does technology sometimes have negative outcomes? Ask for examples.)

2. Explain that the Green Revolution refers to the introduction of new agricultural technologies to underdeveloped countries to increase agricultural production. You can develop your own introduction to this topic based on the background material or have the class as a group read the student handout The Muda Valley of Malaysia. If students have participated in lesson 2, Is Scarcity the Problem?, they might point out that in many countries enough food already exists and that just an increase in food will not end hunger.

3. Distribute the handouts. You may decide to give each student both sets of handouts or divide the tasks among two groups, giving each group one set of handouts. The India example requires much greater math and graph-reading skills, so you may wish to give it to students who can more easily handle that sort of analysis. Give the students thirty minutes to read and complete their handouts.

Note: If time is short, have students complete one or two handouts as homework.

4. Have the entire class discuss their handouts by referring to the particular countries studied. Consider the following:

a. Do greater crop yields always decrease hunger in a country?
b. What are some changes that might occur in an area when a new technology is introduced, especially a new seed developed under different geographic conditions?
c. What might happen to farmers and farmworkers who can't afford the new technologies?

5. Wrap up by listing problems students discovered in each of the countries where new technology was introduced.



· Cornucopia Project (organization)
· Design for the Real World (book), by Victor Papanek
· Farming with Nature (film), Thomas Putnam Productions
· Land Institute (organization)
· Small Is Beautiful (book), by E. F. Schumacher
· Sustainable Agriculture (slide show), International Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture
· Women Involved in Farm Education (organization)


You and your students can organize an alternative technology display at your school. This could be part of an all-school science fair. Design and build working models of new technologies and describe how they might be made available to people.


Students can volunteer at a recycling center. Recycling is one way we can make the products of technology have less impact on the environment.

The Muda valley of Malaysia

Find Malaysia on a world map. Look at the handout Muda Before and After, showing a valley along the Muda River before and after a major dam was built

In northern Malaysia, the Muda River area reveals what can happen when a new technology is introduced. A $90 million dam was built in the 1960s to make a lake for the irrigation of rice paddies. Builders of the dam promised that the dam and the new irrigation technology would increase Malaysia's ability to grow food for its people. They said that all farmers' incomes would increase.

The irrigated rice paddies could grow two crops of a new variety of rice every year, compared with only one crop of the traditional varieties. The traditional varieties, however, needed no irrigation.

The Muda valley of Malaysia

By the early 1970s, yields of rice had almost tripled in the valley. Before the dam was built, this valley grew about 30 percent of the country's rice; now it grew 50 percent. In the past, Malaysia had only been able to produce about half the rice it needed to feed its people; it now produced about 90 percent of the rice needed.

In this time of growth, the incomes of the richer farmers in the valley rose by 150 percent (that is, they more than doubled their income), while poorer farmers' incomes increased by only 50 percent. Even though their income increased, poorer farmers could not afford to continue to pay for irrigation pipes, new seeds, and fertilizers, so their yields did not increase as dramatically as the yields of richer farmers.

Poorer farmers had to borrow money to continue with the new rice, or go back to growing the traditional variety. The gap between rich farmers and poor farmers increased from 900 to 2,350 Malaysian dollars each month.

Then in 1974, the harvests stopped increasing. The land had reached its highest producing potential. The more fertilizer farmers applied to their crops, the less profit they made. Yields would not go any higher no matter how much fertilizer was added. At this time, incomes fell for farmers, but especially for the poor. The cost of growing the crops kept increasing while the market price fell. By 1979 poor farmers' incomes had fallen below levels of the 1960s.

Often the poor farmers did not have enough money to buy seeds or even food for their families. The richer farmers began to buy up land from the poorer farmers. The poorest farmers had to sell all of their land to survive and were forced to take up tenant farming (renting land from the richer farmers) or move to cities.

- Adapted from Norman Myers, Gala: An Atlas of Planet Management (Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, 1984)

Muda before and after


1. What are some changes between the Muda Valley before and after maps? Name 5 differences you see.


2. How do you think the changes you listed affected the people living and farming in the area? Explain some positive and negative aspects of change that may have occurred.

3. What were the promises of the Green Revolution for Malaysia?

4. Do you think that the Green Revolution lived up to its promises? Why or why not?

The green revolution comes to India

The green revolution comes to India

India was one of the first countries where new plant varieties and fertilizers were introduced.
Find India on a world map.


1. How did the percentage of farmers trying new varieties of wheat change from 1960 to 1980?

2. How much did wheat production change in India during that time?

3. Even though India has areas of very fertile soil, the new varieties of wheat required added fertilizer. Graph 3 shows how much fertilizer had to be imported from 1955 to 1975. In the past, farmers used animal manure or let the fields rest for a year. How will having to buy imported fertilizer affect the pocketbooks of poor farmers? From 1955 to 1975, insecticide use also increased. Can you think of some problems with using more insecticides?

4. How did the percentage of hungry people change in India during the early 1970s?

5. Can you think of several reasons why more wheat production does not always mean more food for everyone?