Mechanisation has been cited as one of the priority areas in the improvement of Africa’s agricultural and overall economic well-being.
Experts attending the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Kigali, Rwanda, unanimously agree that mechanisation holds the greatest potential in increasing productivity, whilst making agriculture attractive to the millions of unemployed youth in the continent.
Rwanda is already taking major steps towards a completely mechanised future, with the government hoping to double its mechanised farm operations in the next two years.
“By 2020, we plan to have farmer operations 50 percent mechanised. So far, we have 3500 ha on which 25 percent of farm operations have been mechanised from cultivation to harvest, post-harvest and processing,” said Fulgence Nsengiyumva, Rwanda’s Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, Republic of Rwanda.
It is such efforts that have seen the East Africa country reduce rural poverty by 25 per cent in the past 25 years, while winning numerous accolades in agricultural innovation.
Higino de Marrule, Mozambique’s minister of Agriculture and Food Security notes that to achieve the kind of success that Rwanda has, a deliberate investment needs to be made by the primary stakeholder – the government.
“Mechanisation needs to be made socially and politically sustainable and prioritised throughout the agriculture value chain, from production, through to post-harvest handling and processing", said Marrule.
Marrule further noted that for a strong mechanisation strategy the focus should be spread across the acquisition of machines and capacity building.
And for an even deeper reach, Marrule recommends that governments set out to establish symbiotic partnerships with players in the private sector.
“There needs to be modalities incentivising private sector players to take mechanisation to scale by creating a conducive business and services environment,” he said.
Still, the experts agree, the recruitment and training of manpower to run the mechanisation strategies remains the key to their success.
”Improved skills and training are absolutely essential to make the best of mechanisation plans,” said Professor Joachim von Braun, co-chair of the Malabo Montpellier Panel.
The Montpellier Panel, in which Von Braun is also a director, has in the past confirmed that mechanisation can be used as a strategy to counter youth unemployment in Africa, which currently stands at 12 percent, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The African region also has the world’s highest rate of working poverty — people who are employed but earning less than US$2 a day.
The Panel asserts that this idle populace can be productively used in agriculture, citing mechanisation as one of the ways to give the industry some ‘sex-appeal’ among the youth.
“Rural youth demand mechanisation to reduce the burden of manual work. If they do not get these opportunities they will continue to walk away,” von Braun said earlier this year, while launching a report showcasing evidence to guide African governments in successfully mechanising Africa’s agribusiness value chains.
Ultimately, it was agreed at the Kigali Forum that the potential of mechanisation in radically changing the African agriculture landscape is one that cannot be ignored, with all stakeholders urged to give it critical attention.