Proponents of the new Green Revolution in Africa argue that the first Green Revolution missed the continent. This narrative is often coupled with a celebration of Norman Borlaug, his work in Latin America and Asia, and a desire to bring his spirit and his work to Africa. But Borlaug did go to Africa. In fact, he spent the last two decades of his life leading the Sasakawa Global (SG2000) program, an initiative run by himself, Jimmy Carter, and Ryōichi Sasakawa. SG2000 first launched in Ghana in 1985, and over the next twenty years, expanded to nearly a dozen African nations with an explicit goal to bring the Green Revolution to the continent through the distribution of high yielding seed varieties and chemical fertilizer.

While SG2000 still operates in a few countries today, they quietly shut down their Ghanaian operations in 2000. And few would contest the point that so far a Green Revolution has not been achieved on the African continent. So what happened? What were the outcomes of SG2000 in the countries where it worked? How did SG2000’s early leadership team — Borlaug, Carter, and Sasakawa — set priorities, raise funds, and utilize their own networks to support the project’s work? And what lessons do such outcomes serve for agricultural development practice today?

These questions drive a new research project I am undertaking. SG2000 challenges current narratives that (a) the Green Revolution was a success, and (b) that the Green Revolution missed Africa, two claims that currently underpin agricultural development initiatives throughout the continent. Therefore, it is imperative to understand SG2000 at a deeper level.

The first phase of the project focuses on Ghana, SG2000’s first country of intervention. Phase two will widen the scope of inquiry to examine the work of SG2000 elsewhere on the continent. Throughout the project I will be engaging in expert interviews, fieldwork, and archival research in Ghana, the US, and Japan.

Norman Borlaug in Ghana, 1992 (source)

This research is generously funded by the Cambridge Humanities Research Grant Scheme.