Induced intensification: Agricultural change in Bangladesh with implications for Malthus and Boserup

B. L. Turner, A. M. Shajaat Ali

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Bangladesh is dominated by a small-holder agrarian economy under extreme stress. Production shortfalls, increasing economic polarization, and chronic malnutrition are persistent, but major famine has been diverted in part by significant growth in agriculture. This recent history is open to both Malthusian and Boserupian interpretations-a history we explore here through a test of the induced intensification thesis of agricultural change. This thesis, framed by variations in the behavior of small-holders, has grown from a simple demand-production relationship to a consideration of the mediating influences on that relationship. The induced intensification thesis is reviewed and tested for 265 households in 6 villages in Bangladesh from 1950- 1986. A time-series analysis of an induced intensification model provides relatively high levels of explained variance in cropping intensity (frequency and land productivity) and also indicates the relative impacts of household class, environment, and cropping strategies. On average, the small-holders in question kept pace with the demands on production, although important class and village variations were evident and the proportion of landless households increased. These results, coupled with evidence that agricultural growth involved intensification thresholds, provide clues about Malthusian and Boserupian interpretations of Bangladesh, and suggest that small-holder agriculture there is likely to continue on a 'muted' path of growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14984-14991
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number25
StatePublished - Dec 10 1996
Externally publishedYes

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