Uptake of scale-appropriate agricultural machinery in Bangladesh: policy insights from historical and census survey analyses
In response to calls for increased crop intensification and technological options that alleviate labour and drudgery constraints in agriculture, donors and policy makers in South Asia increasingly advocate agricultural machinery appropriate for smallholder farmers’ landholdings. When carefully utilized, ‘scale-appropriate’ machinery has the potential to boost returns to land and labour, and alleviate the sometimes substantial funds required for machinery investment that can exclude smallholders from purchase and ownership – especially where subsidies are not offered. Expanding demand among farmers for mechanized planting, irrigation, harvest, and post-harvest equipment has however resulted in popular systems of rural machinery services provision, whereby smallholders access machines through cost-effective fee-for-service arrangements. Such systems are especially prominent in Bangladesh, although the extent of rural mechanization markets are still not comprehensive. As such, a substantial number of farmers could still benefit from increased access. To help prioritize investments in development efforts focussed on scale-appropriate machinery, donors and policy makers require information explaining what influences farmers to purchase machinery and provide services to other farmers as clients. This research addresses this need, by using census data from 814,058 Bangladeshi farm households (HHs) collected by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics surveyed in 2008. We applied a multinomial probit model estimation approach to identify the factors that are related to ownership of agricultural machinery, inclusive of HH characteristics and assets, as well as proximity and relation to institutional and civil infrastructural variables, to examine the ownership of irrigation pumps, threshers, and two-wheel tractor driven power-tillers. In addition to household asset ownership, credit availability, and electrification, we found that road density also significantly and positively affects machinery ownership in rural Bangladesh. We therefore suggest that donors and policy makers should focus not only on short-term projects aimed at increasing adoption of machinery or in improvement of machinery value chains; rather, sustained emphasis on improving regional physical and civil infrastructure appears to also be prerequisite to create an enabling environment for expansion of scale-appropriate farm machinery, and as such should also receive policy and donor prioritization.