In search of effective support for agricultural mechanization in Africa

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Rising food demand and a shrinking rural labor pool have made the need for tractors and other machines increasingly urgent.

by Hiroyuki Takeshima, Xinshen Diao and Patrick Ohene Aboagye

Africans have always recognized the importance of farm mechanization. Many who have grown up in rural areas have, at some point, worked on a farm or watched others do so, and know firsthand the back-breaking labor involved. Mechanical power that can provide relief from such drudgery has always been desired and appreciated.

Once, promising farm plots could be cleared by burning bushes or grasses on unused land, rather than tilling the soil, a task that did not require heavy manual labor, let alone the mechanical power of tractors. But in recent decades, farming in Africa has started requiring more work, typically done by humans or animals. As population density rose, rather than clearing new plots, farmers shifted to the practice of conducting more frequent and intensive land preparation on the same plots each year.

More recently, rising food demand has also stimulated market-oriented farm production, and as growing numbers of rural youth started looking for employment in the non-farm sector, farmers faced increasing challenges in recruiting enough workers for land preparation.

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Photo: oneVillage Initiative (Flickr)

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