Thanks to the green revolution, India has seen dramatic increases in food production. However, a system of banks designed to slow the runoff of water in rain-fed areas—80% of India’s agricultural land—has proved to be no match for the violent rainstorms, and large-scale soil erosion is the result.
Agriculturalists have now singled out vetiver grass, a tough native plant that will not burn and that cattle refuse to eat, as a candidate for saving the soil. Vetiver has been successfully used in Fiji and in the West Indies to hold soil in place. The World Bank is funding projects in five Indian states to introduce vetiver, and is getting a good response from farmers. What may appear to be a simple solution to the problem of soil erosion (a problem with disastrous consequences for the future of India’s food production capacity) may yet turn out to be more successful than any complicated technologies that clever technocrats can devise. (The Economist September 20, 1986, pp. 97-98)