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Social-Ecological Systems Meta-Analysis Database: Theory

Borlaug hypothesis and deforestation

Variable relationship:

The Borlaug hypothesis, named for Norman Borlaug, "the founder of the green revolution," and described by Angelsen and Kaimowitz (2001), states that improvements in agricultural technology will enable farmers to produce more food from a given piece of land (Technology Role; Productivity), thereby enabling growth in food supply without leading to increased deforestation (Commons Condition Trend).

Scientific Field
Component Type(s)
Natural Resource Unit, Natural Resource System


VariableRoleRole ExplanationValue
Technology roleUnderlying independent variableThe first role of technology in this theory is to increase the productivity of agricultural land.Increase productivity
ProductivityProximate independent variableAgricultural technology (most typically understood in terms of germplasm i.e. improved seed varieties) enables farmers to grow more food in the same amount of land, which is in turn means that farmers don't have to clear more land to grow more food.Very productive
Technology roleProximate independent variableAs a result of the increased productivity, the new technology enables the system to decrease the use of the commons.Decreased commons use
Commons condition trendFinal outcomeIn this theory, forest conservation - a trend towards improved forest condition - is the result of improved agricultural technology allowing farmers to spare clearing forests while increasing yieldRemained the same or Improved

Related Theories

TheoryRelationshipCharacterizing Variables
Environmental kuznets curverelated
Rebound effectcontradictory
Technical solutions and shifting the burdencontradictory

Related Studies


Angelsen, A., and D. Kaimowitz. 2001. "Introduction: The Role of Agricultural Technologies in Tropical Deforestation." In Agricultural technologies and tropical deforestation, edited by A. Angelsen and D. Kaimowitz, 1-18. New York: CABi Publishing.


Stevenson, J. R., N. Villoria, D. Byerlee, T. Kelley, and M. Maredia. 2013. Green Revolution research saved an estimated 18 to 27 million hectares from being brought into agricultural production. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110:8363–8368. National Acad Sciences.