Home » Why Mechanisation Is Focal in Transforming Africa’s Agricultural Landscape (Part One)

Why Mechanisation Is Focal in Transforming Africa’s Agricultural Landscape (Part One)

by Agritech Digest
Agricultural mechanisation is important for development in Africa

Mechanisation can and will transform the current low level of production, processing and value-addition initiatives in Africa. It will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of value-chain operations, increase on-farm agricultural productivity… 

By Oyewole Okewole

According to Statista, agriculture accounts for about 43.8% of the total employment in Africa. Agriculture employs more than half of the total workforce in sub-Saharan Africa, with even more influence in rural communities within the region. It is a principal developmental sector that provides livelihoods for over 80% of the rural population, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). The FAO also revealed that agriculture remains a primary source of livelihood for 10 to 25% of urban households.

Africa is home to 60% of the global uncultivated arable land. The continent is estimated to possess the potential to feed over 60% of the world’s population by the year 2050. Can it be achieved? One of the key aspirations identified in the Africa Agenda 2063 is to consolidate the modernisation of Africa’s agriculture and agribusiness. This cannot be achieved without adopting a fully mechanised agricultural process as this plays a fundamental role in attaining this goal. Sub-Saharan Africa, for one, remains the region with the lowest rate of mechanisation in the world. The number of tractors per 1000 hectares is around 28 compared to over 200 tractors in other regions of the world. Further, statistics by the African Development Bank (AfDB) indicate that African farmers have 10 times fewer mechanised implements per farm area than farmers in other developing regions. With the current low mechanisation drive in Africa, the vision of feeding the world might just be far-reaching.

Agricultural mechanisation was essentially prominent in the 20th century, and led to major advances in farming, harvesting, irrigation, processing, storage, value addition, etc. It is sad to note that these technologies have not been progressively utilised on the African continent, like in other continents of the world.

(Read also: Will Nanotechnology Change the Narrative for Agriculture and Food Systems?)

We are excited to share with youThis FREE E-Book of 50 Agritech Pioneers & Their Game Changing Innovations.

Download the Ebook now 

Mechanisation in agriculture represents the production, distribution, and utilisation of a variety of tools, equipment and machinery for the development of agricultural land and on-field operations, including planting, harvesting and other post-harvest applications, and processing.  Limited use of improved mechanised systems is one of the major reasons for low agricultural productivity in Africa.  It is also a factor that is mainly responsible for the current state of Africa as a major net importer of food. The cost of food import in Africa is expected to grow from US $35 billion in 2015 to over US $110 billion by 2025, even as increased agricultural production in the continent could offset this cost, according to the African Development Bank.

Mechanisation is an integral part of the agricultural intensification process. In response to the increases in demand for agricultural products necessitated primarily by increased population, mechanisation has become a key component of the needed technologies to facilitate the needed intensification.
C:\Users\PROCONTEC LTD\Desktop\Agritech Digest Kenneth\machinery-per-agricultural-land.png

Farm Machinery per unit of agricultural land, 2019.

Farm Machinery is measured in units of horsepower. This is divided by total agricultural land to give the average machinery use per 1000 hectares of agricultural land

Source: Our World in Data.

The weak adoption and utilisation of mechanised systems across the value chain have limited the value addition drive, and agricultural industrialisation, and by consequence, reduced the overall impact of agriculture on the economy of most African nations. 

(Read also: How Well Are Advancing Technologies in Agriculture Being Globally Adopted?)

In some countries on the continent, where mechanised systems are adopted, these systems are not implemented sustainably to ensure their technological, economic, social, cultural and environmental benefits are optimised. Mechanisation, within the purview of mechanisation, will contribute to the agricultural development of the value chains and food systems of the region. As such, it is safe to indicate that the degree of agricultural development directly reflects the degree of the adoption and application of mechanisation technologies.

Mechanisation can and will transform the current low level of production, processing and value-addition initiatives in Africa. It will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of value-chain operations, increase on-farm agricultural productivity and essentially create a more food and nutrition-secure continent. The effect will be seen in increased power inputs to farming activities and consequently, putting more land into production, reducing drudgery in farming activities, enhancing the efficiency of agricultural operations, improving the quality and value of agricultural commodities, and providing opportunities for agricultural industrialisation.

There are peculiar reasons for the low intensity of agricultural mechanisation in Africa. Some of them include:

1. Small size of farmlands

2. Weak financial capacity of farmers and end-users 

3. Poor investment portfolios for mechanisation

4. Cost of procuring and maintaining various machines

5. Weak tripartite coordination between manufacturers, research organisations, and on-field users.

6. Inadequate, and in some cases, absent quality control of mechanised equipment

7. Lack of appropriate mechanised technologies

8. Lack of repair and service facilities for equipment and machines.

In addition, African countries need to independently develop and implement policies on agricultural mechanisation strategies, invest more in practical, hands-on training of engineers, technologists, and technicians, build a robust and inclusive machinery value chain architecture or framework, operate an efficient machinery hiring system for smallholder farmers, intensify postharvest technology, establish and reinforce testing and evaluation centres for machinery and equipment, and develop a comprehensive agricultural engineering program to fully embrace on-field challenges and provide the necessary solutions.

If mechanised systems are not fully developed as required, African agriculture’s growth and development will be stunted. Besides, advancing and emerging technologies like precision agriculture, controlled-environment agriculture, farm management software applications, and others that will further promote innovation, efficiency, optimisation and growth will experience a brick wall in their implementation and adoption strategies.

Cover photo by Giuseppe Bizzarri/FAO

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

Agritech Digest is your gateway to a fascinating world where agriculture meets technology.


©2023 Agritech Media, All Right Reserved. Designed and Developed by KubuniX