Chinyere Anyanwu,[email protected]

Major stakeholders in agricultural mechanisation have called for the adoption of a value chain approach to mechanisation as one of the best options towards attaining high productivity in agriculture on the continent.

Speaking during a webinar organised by AATF recently, the stakeholders, including experts in agricultural mechanisation, agribusiness, digital agriculture and representatives of global agencies like the World Bank, African Union (AU), the National Agriculture Research Organisation (NARO) of Uganda, and private sector players, agreed that smallholder farmers are key players in the value-chain system that can engender growth and sustainability of Africa’s agricultural productivity.

Setting the stage, Mr. George Marechera, Business Development Manager at AATF, said mechanisation provides an opportunity for smallholder farmers to evolve from subsistence to business. He, however, added that this can only happen where mechanisation is adopted along the agricultural value chain.

According to Marechera, mechanisation gives rise to increased production and reduces high labour costs, enhances efficient production at low cost, facilitates competitive pricing, promotes efficient use of input and enhances productivity.

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“Farmer aggregation, clustering and training on mechanisation and farming as a business, identification of local entrepreneurs and training of tractor operators in mechanisation service provision including the establishment of  Mechanisation Model Farms (MMF) to provide technology demonstration and capacity building are critical steps that are needed to ensure mechanisation makes an impact on the continent,” he said.

Marechera, who also serves as the Managing Director of Agridrive Limited, a socio-enterprises owned by AATF and specialising in mechanisation services provision, equipment support and providing agribusiness solutions to farmers in SSA, noted that mechanisation is not a silver bullet to the production challenges facing agriculture but encouraged the introduction of a mechanisation system that ensures smallholder farmers get optimal benefits from utilising mechanisation.

In his presentation on opportunities and challenges for sustainable financing of agricultural mechanisation in Africa, Dr. Parmesh Shah, Global Lead, Data-driven and Digital Agriculture at the World Bank, noted that mechanisation goes beyond deployment of tractors to farms as it involves production, harvesting, post-harvest handling, transportation, storage and packaging.

Speaking on the spatial variations of mechanisation demand across Africa, Shah noted that most African countries are not at par when it comes to the deployment of tractors in agriculture. He, therefore, called for a critical review of sub-regional patterns in the utilisation of mechanisation to see what works and what can be borrowed.

Principal Research Officer with the National Agricultural Organisation (NARO)-Uganda, Dr. Omongo Christopher Abu, who traced the origin of agricultural mechanisation in Africa to the early 1950s and acknowledged the low level of mechanisation in the agricultural value chain, stated that over 90 per cent of transactions (farm production-to-market) are handled through inefficient labour-intensive tools.

According to Christopher, agricultural mechanisation is a catalyst for economic growth and therefore needs to be promoted as a business on the continent.