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Agriculture mechanization only way to make African farming profitable

Ag­ri­cul­tural mech­an­isa­tion in Africa can raise pro­ductiv­ity and make rural em­ploy­ment more at­tract­ive, thus en­sur­ing the con­tin­ent’s fu­ture growth and poverty al­le­vi­ation.

Ex­perts, in a re­port launched in Malawi last month (10 July), ex­amined seven coun­tries — Ethiopia, Mali, Malawi, Mo­rocco, Rwanda, Tan­zania and Zam­bia — that are at the fore­front of mech­an­isa­tion and how their suc­cesses could be rep­lic­ated across Africa.

The re­port was pub­lished by the Malabo Mont­pel­lier Panel, a group of 17 African and in­ter­na­tional ag­ri­cul­tural ex­perts.

“Africa is the re­gion with the least mech­an­ised ag­ri­cul­tural sys­tem in the world,” says the re­port. “African farm­ers have ten times fewer mech­an­ised tools per farm area than farm­ers in other de­vel­op­ing re­gions.”

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Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the seven coun­tries se­lec­ted for the case stud­ies had av­er­age an­nual ag­ri­cul­tural ma­chinery growth rates ran­ging from 2.73 to 3.12 whereas that of their av­er­age an­nual ag­ri­cul­tural out­put rates ranged from four to 8.5 between 2005 and 2014.

The suc­cess stor­ies in­clude the Mo­roc­can gov­ern­ment hav­ing a de­part­ment of ag­ro­nomy and ag­ri­cul­tural ma­chinery that designs and de­velop ma­chines and tools for use by Mo­roc­can farm­ers while Rwanda has, among oth­ers, vil­lage mech­an­isa­tion ser­vice centres op­er­ated by the gov­ern­ment.

Noble Banadda, a mem­ber of the panel and chair of the De­part­ment of Ag­ri­cul­tural and Biosys­tems En­gin­eer­ing at Uganda’s Maker­ere Uni­versity, tells SciDev.​Net that more than 70 per cent of the young pop­u­la­tion in Africa live on less than US$2 a day as they struggle with high un­em­ploy­ment.

The re­port makes seven re­com­mend­a­tions in­clud­ing a need to el­ev­ate na­tional ag­ri­cul­tural mech­an­isa­tion in­vest­ment strategies within na­tional ag­ri­cul­tural plans, design so­cially and polit­ic­ally mech­an­isa­tion path­ways that are sus­tain­able and pri­or­it­ise the en­tire ag­ri­cul­tural value chain mech­an­isa­tion.

“The Malabo Mont­pel­lier Panel seeks to provide ac­tion­able re­com­mend­a­tions for African poli­cy­makers on ag­ri­cul­tural mech­an­isa­tion,” says Banadda. “This re­port provides evid­ence needed to shape suc­cess­ful strategies on mech­an­isa­tion and ex­per­i­ence-shar­ing in the African con­text.”

The ex­perts ex­amined policies, in­sti­tu­tional changes and pro­gram­matic in­ter­ven­tions these coun­tries have made, and their likely im­pact on the food value chains.

Mech­an­isa­tion, ac­cord­ing to Banadda, is ne­ces­sary along the whole value chain, in­clud­ing pro­duc­tion, post-har­vest hand­ling, pro­cessing, trans­port and mar­ket­ing stages. “Tech­no­lo­gies make these stages more ef­fi­cient and luc­rat­ive, es­pe­cially for the youth,” he notes

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