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Making Mechanization Accessible to Smallholder Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa

Agricultural Engineer, Engineering for Development, 3 Bourneside, Bedford MK41 7EG, UK
Agricultural Engineer, Plant Production and Protection Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Rome 00153, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Yu-Pin Lin
Environments 2016, 3(2), 11;
Received: 29 January 2016 / Revised: 29 March 2016 / Accepted: 7 April 2016 / Published: 19 April 2016
PDF [5747 KB, uploaded 19 April 2016]


This paper summarizes the deliberations at a meeting convened by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation held in Beijing in October 2015. Farm power and mechanization are agricultural production inputs that will be essential to raise the labor and land productivity required if Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 2 (ending poverty and hunger) are to be achieved. The smallholder farm sector demand for mechanization needs to be raised to stimulate the product value chain and activate input supply (that is to raise farm productivity, stimulate value addition, and encourage private sector custom hire service provision). The sustainability of mechanization from a natural resource conservation point of view is discussed with reference to conservation agriculture principles. Mechanization appropriate for the smallholder sector covers the range of possible power sources human, draft animal and motorized. The key is to engage all the stakeholders in the supply chain and offer a range of suitable options from which the user can select. Sustainability of mechanization includes financial and social, as well as environmental factors. Local manufacturers should be supported where feasible as they can provide implements and machines adapted to local conditions—and better technical service and replacement part supply. The public sector role in providing access to mechanization should be restricted to promulgating enabling policies, building technical and business management skills and stimulating demand. The lessons to be learnt from Chinese experience in making mechanization available to smallholder farmers include subsidies, strong extension services, infrastructure development and a solid manufacturing sector that prioritizes the smallholder sector. The implications for sub-Saharan Africa appear to be that group ownership and custom hire service provision are the models to follow. Finally, the relevance of an African Center for Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization, on the model of CSAM in Beijing, is considered and recommended. View Full-Text
Keywords: essential agricultural input; value chains; demand creation; provision mechanisms; local manufacture; Chinese experience; center for sustainable mechanization essential agricultural input; value chains; demand creation; provision mechanisms; local manufacture; Chinese experience; center for sustainable mechanization

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Sims, B.; Kienzle, J. Making Mechanization Accessible to Smallholder Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Environments 2016, 3, 11.

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