‘Time to Change the Gear’: Scaling Agricultural Mechanization in Africa

With the ever-increasing population in and urbanization Africa, the demand for food has been consistently escalating. Though there is a high potential and enormous resources (land, water etc..) that can be tapped to feed its own people, the issue of food insecurity has always been on top of the agendas. This has made African countries, mostly sub-Saharan African countries, to plead for external support/Aid.

African Agriculture takes a significant portion of the economies in most of its countries. For example, in East Africa, smallholder farming accounts for about 75 percent of agricultural production and over 75 percent of employment (Adeleke S., et al). However, it has been characterized by its labor intensity and yet low production and productivity which is also highly affected by environmental and climate variability.

As opposed to other developing regions that have experienced rapid increases in agricultural mechanization over the past few decades, and unlike developed countries, which use large mechanized farming, most countries in Africa still follow the smallholder farming system characterized by family labor for production where in most instance, the produce is used for family consumption. These small holders have also been challenged with limited or no access to improved technologies, access to infrastructures like market and access to financial resources including credit facilities and the capacity and knowledge. This hugely calls for the need to mechanize African Agriculture to help feed its own people, as well as play its significant role in rural empowerment and  the economy.

[nectar_single_testimonial testimonial_style=”small_modern” color=”Accent-Color” quote=”Mechanization will have a big role in African Agriculture. However, it requires a huge work on land preparation appropriate for Mechanization.” name=”Julius Atorough” subtitle=”Chairman AT&S Nigeria LTD”]
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Key Stakeholders in Agriculture from West, East and Southern African Countries came together in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 23-24 October 2018 for the two days event focusing on a Regional Synthesis & Research Dialogue on Appropriate Mechanization in Sub-Saharan Africa . More than 50 participants who represented national and international institutes, government, Non-government organizations and donors attended this important meeting. This meeting which was held at premises of the International livestock research institute (ILRI) had the objectives of:

  • Bringing together different national and international organizations working in agricultural appropriate mechanization from sub-Saharan countries to exchange and share knowledge
  • Define the broader scope for research around appropriate mechanization.
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While officially opening the meeting, Dr Adugna Wakjira, representing Diriba Geleti (Ethiopian institute of Agricultural Research-EIAR) said that agricultural mechanization is very vital to Ethiopia and the Federal government of Ethiopia is highly supportive of it and welcomes any support and initiations in this regard. Though the country’s economy is growing fast, the agriculture sector remains to be modernized. Smallholder farmers use traditional farming tools which is labor and time intensive. Thus, the federal government of Ethiopia welcomes advises, recommendations and is highly committed to accommodate new and innovative ideas and invest resources. Dr Adugna Wakjira, reaffirmed that, the government welcome any research, discussion and dialogues around agricultural mechanization and recognized the support that have been extended from FAO, CIMMYT and GIZ in this regard.

Representing FAO, Joseph Kienzle, then presented the Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization Framework for Africa (SAMA) which was officially launched in October 2018. The framework was developed by FAO to respond to the 2014 Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods and upon the AU members requested and agreed in 2015 to have a framework to address the issue of mechanization in Africa

The framework has five chapters: Mechanization and agricultural development, Evolution of agricultural mechanization in Africa, Key issues and constraints to sustainable agricultural mechanization in Africa with examples from Asia & Latin America, Elements of a Framework for SAMA and Agenda for action: implementation mechanism. According to Joseph, the framework will help inform policy makers and development partners in member states. It stresses the significance of mainstreaming mechanization thus encouraging each country to develop their own since each will have unique need and context.

Frédéric Baudron, system Agronomist, CIMMYT later talked about the experience of CIMMYT and its partners with the multiple dimensions of appropriate mechanization in eastern and southern Africa (ESA). His presentation highlighted key areas that triggered discussion around the contribution of mechanization to intensification with minimum negative consequences for the environment (including climate), the contribution of mechanization to social inclusion (the poor, women, youth) and effective ways to scale mechanization through commercialization.

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Participants of the event were appreciative of the interaction, discussion and presentations during the event. As one of the participants stated, the event was helpful to learn how to see the role and the benefit of mechanization to everyone in one way or the other

[nectar_single_testimonial testimonial_style=”small_modern” color=”Accent-Color” quote=”I learnt that Mechanization may not necessarily mean women directly benefit by holding a machine, but if the whole value chain is Mechanized women will also be the ultimate beneficiaries.” name=”Dorcas Matangi” subtitle=”CIMMYT”]

Another major part of the meeting was the cross country sharing and learning. As most of the participants agreed, countries need to learn from each other and shouldn’t start from the scratch.

[nectar_single_testimonial testimonial_style=”small_modern” color=”Accent-Color” quote=”Adaptation is important instead of starting from the scratch.” name=”Josef Kienzle” subtitle=”Agricultural Engineer, Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations(FAO)”]
[nectar_single_testimonial testimonial_style=”small_modern” color=”Accent-Color” quote=”Let us learn from the mistakes of other countries in Mechanization” name=”Raymond Nazare” subtitle=”Zimbabwe”]

Engaging the private sector in African Agriculture mechanization was also discussed during the event. It was learnt that if African Agriculture must move upward and commercialize, the Agricultural sector must open up itself and accommodate key stakeholder in development like the private sector. Over the two days, participants shared experiences on Appropriate mechanization in the context of sustainable intensification and climate-smart agriculture, Appropriate mechanization and social inclusiveness Models to scale out appropriate mechanization through poster session and group reflections.

Before the official closing of the meeting, Rabé Yahaya from CIMMYT gave an overall impression, learning and highlights of the two days including:

  • The need to advocate Agricultural mechanization in the continent
  • Promoting the identified opportunities to donors and government
  • And coordination by both national and international research institutes  

As a way forward for the sharing and learning, Rabe mentioned that the presentations, posters and all other available documentations will be available for the participants. In addition, CIMMYT will be taking a lead to prepare a policy brief as an output of the learning event that would help for promotion and agricultural mechanization in Africa.

The learning event came to an end with the official closing by Dr Adugna Wakjira who again stressed the commitment of the Ethiopian government to invest on agricultural mechanisation and pave the way and facilitate for collaboration and partnership and requesting for the continual support from development partners.


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