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Experts: Mechanising Africa’s agriculture can improve production and transform economies

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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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