Agricultural mechanization in Ghana: Insights from a recent field study

Ghana is one of a few African countries where agricultural mechanization has recently undergone rapid development. Except for places in the forest zone where stumps are still an issue in fields, tractors used for plowing and maize shelling have been widely adopted even among small farmers. Medium- and large-scale farmers who own tractors provide the majority of mechanization services. Recognizing this fundamental fact is important for designing any effective mechanization policy, which should aim at the entire service market instead of targeting a selected group of service providers as beneficiaries. Tractor owners and operators are often discouraged from traveling long distances to plow only a few acres for individual small farmers, which becomes a considerable barrier for smallholders to access tractor services on time. This requires the government consider mechanisms to improve coordination among small farmers and to encourage Farmer Based Organizations (FBOs) to facilitate such coordination. The use of harrowing or second-plowing has been shown as a productivity-enhancing farming practice but it is currently under-demanded by farmers. A pilot program to address the coordination failures and to nudge small farmers to adopt harrowing services together can be considered.