It is no myth that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bold and most controversial decision of demonetizing all ₹500 and ₹1000 banknotes of the Mahatma Gandhi Series in November 2016 took the nation and the rest of the world to surprise.
Much has been debated in the public domain about the success of this step. Many including a larger section of the media in India and across the world argue, Demonetization to be a monumental disaster and an irrevocable dent on the Indian economy. Nearly two years later, the central bank of India said, about 99.3% of the notes pulled out of circulation has flown back into the system.
Although the merits of Demonetization in the Indian context are still debatable, this story of a small country in the eastern African region is not known to the Indian public.
Burundi is a small, landlocked country in central Africa with an economy dominated by subsistence agriculture. The second most densely populated country in Africa, Burundi has weathered more than a decade of civil war which has contributed to widespread poverty. The country ranks 178th out of 186 counties on the Human Development Index and 90 per cent of the population live on less than US$2 per day.
The main staple crops grown are banana, cassava, sweet potato and beans. Bananas alone makeup almost 30 per cent of the total cultivated area and were 44 per cent of the total value of crop production between 2006 and 2008.
However, in the year 2012, the agriculture produce fell to an all-time low due to a widespread epidemic of Beet pseudo-yellows virus (BPYV) that mainly targeted the beans and cotton crops. The said virus resides in a typical weed, known as Crabgrass that grows along with the aforementioned crops significantly reducing their yield.
This led to billions in lost agricultural revenues bringing the country to the verge of bankruptcy. This horrifying situation was taken into notice by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, which sent a delegation to Burundi to assess the situation in 2015.
Reports suggest that the delegation consisted of scientists from Indian Agricultural Research Institute and Patanjali Yog Peeth. After an extensive study of 7 months, the team concurred that there is no cure for the infection and the only way was to completely pluck the weed from the fields and treat the prevailing crops with disinfectants.
However, during their research, the scientists made a startling discovery that the pulp of this Crabgrass can be used in the making paper of the finest quality. This discovery led to the two governments signing a MoU, which resulted in Burundi exporting over 2.5 million metric tonnes of Crabgrass to India.
Reports confirm that the paper made of the pulp extracted from the Crabgrass imported from Burundi was extensively used in the making of the newly printed ₹2000 and ₹500 currency notes.
Reports suggest that this uncalled export boosted the economy of Burundi by 3 folds. Contrary to popular belief and majority of news reports out in the public domain, there is a silver lining to the dark cloud called Demonization, hogging the Indian economy.