Scale-appropriate farm machinery for rice and wheat harvesting: updates from South and South East Asia
With high rates of poverty, declining but persistent food insecurity, and an increase occurrence of damaging climate extremes, the smallholder-dominated agricultural systems of South Asia are under considerable stress while, at the same time, projections suggest that crop productivity will
need to increase dramatically in coming years to ensure regional food security. Underlying these challenges is an aging rural workforce and a lack of interest among young people for making farming their profession. These dynamics contribute to an unprofitable present and an uncertain future. The promise of appropriate mechanization offers a pathway forward. At its best, new types of scale-appropriate machinery can greatly reduce drudgery and the costs of production while ensuring precision management and timely field operations. Moreover, when machinery services are provided by small and medium-scale entrepreneurs, new jobs are created that help anchor younger people in rural communities while labor-limited farms stay viable by purchasing essential services. Despite the promise of mechanized solutions, progress in the past decade has been uneven with success achieved in some geographies with certain technologies while others largely stagnate. There is much to learn from this experience. Facilitating mechanization transitions is a complex process. Adapted technologies must be available at the right price, in the right place, with the right enabling environment. In most cases this implies the need for strong synergies between the public and private sectors along with rigorous priority setting and strategic planning to assess the business case and to build a scaling plan for mechanized solutions that differs by technology and geography.