Monday, 1 May 2017

Mechanisation on a small scale brings results in sub-Saharan Africa

Small-scale agricultural mechanisation is creating jobs for youth in sub-Saharan Africa, where many people are unemployed or working poor.

ACIAR’s project: Farm Mechanisation and Conservation Agriculture for Sustainable Intensification (FACASI) helped smallholder farmers in eastern and southern Africa adopt machines such as two-wheel tractors to make planting, harvesting, milling and transporting more productive and sustainable.

ACIAR contributed $3.9 million to the four-year project which ended in February 2017. Our funding was delivered through the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). 
The project leader, Frédéric Baudron, senior systems agronomist at CIMMYT, said: ‘Small-scale mechanisation is more equitable than other forms of mechanisation as even the poorest and most vulnerable have access to it.’

Smale-scale mechanisation is accessible to more people
Sub-Saharan Africa needed to sustainably intensify its agriculture, but most research for development (R4D) work tried to use land, water or nutrients better, and overlooked farm power.  Farm power in sub-Saharan Africa has declined as tractor hire schemes collapsed, and rural-urban migration and pandemics like HIV/AIDS reduced the number of human agricultural labourers.

The FACASI project introduced mechanised tractors - which plant crops faster than people can, conserve soils and shell grain, lessening market preparation time.  Farmers can use surface water for irrigation, or use machinery to start rural commercial hire and transport services.
The project also created new markets for equipment and services; and supported importers, manufacturers, service providers and extension workers along the supply chain to make sure mechanisation could reach farmers.

‘Mechanisation creates rural employment,’ said Dr Baudron.  ‘It creates work for service provider jobs and it also stimulates other businesses along the mechanisation value chains.  Once demand for mechanisation is established, employment opportunities grow for mechanics, fuel providers, savings and loan associations, and spare part dealers.’

Service provider in Machakel Amhara region Ethiopia
Mechanised agriculture also freed women and youth from high labour drudgery.
Rabe Yahaya, a mechanisation expert from CIMMYT’s partner organisations CIM/GIZ, said: ‘In many societies, youth and women are unequally disadvantaged and perform the most labour intensive agricultural activities such as ploughing, sowing, weeding, harvesting, shelling, water pumping, threshing and transportation with very rudimentary implements using human and animal power.’

The ACIAR funded FACASI project succeeded in bringing mechanisation to farmers by assisting throughout the supply chain, from importers to manufacturers, service providers and extension workers. Mechanisation can achieve results – previously, not many young people studied agriculture at university, and youth unemployment was growing, but young people now saw economic opportunities in agribusiness, on rural farms, and as service providers, thanks to mechanised agriculture. 

‘Agriculture,’ Dr Yahaya said, ‘could be the solution in tackling youth unemployment in rural areas, therefore providing peace, stability and food security.’

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