Status of appropriate-scale mechanization in Zambia and Zimbabwe
Unlocking the potential of smallholder agricultural productivity hinges on the pivotal role of mechanization, serving as the cornerstone to raise crop yield and improve livelihoods. However, evidence is thin on fit-for-purpose appropriate mechanization in the south of the Sahel. This study used a quantitative survey to understand the status of appropriate-scale mechanization in Zambia and Zimbabwe. In both countries, 50 service providers participated in the survey together with 210 farmers who used mechanization services and 219 farmers who did not. We find that farmers who used mechanization services had higher maize yield and higher household incomes. But there are nuances. First, mechanization service providers are older, predominantly male, and more educated. Second, the distributional effects show that hiring mechanization is associated with statistically significant higher outcomes in the 75th and 95th percentiles of income and yield. These results point to a need for structured promotion approaches tha allow all farmer types to equally benefit from mechanization services. There is a need for more work on the economics of appropriate scale agricultural mechanization to further understand profitability and returns to investments.