The practice of using machinery in whole or part to mechanize the work of farm work — otherwise known as agricultural mechanization — is on the rise in Africa and many other parts of the planet, due to the confluence of factors including:
According to seasoned entrepreneur Sanjeev Mansotra who is based in Dubai, UAE, here are the core benefits of agricultural mechanization in Africa, and elsewhere across the planet where the practice is productively and profitably applied:
The most important and compelling benefit of agricultural mechanization is the significant, and in many cases dramatic increase in overall farm productivity. Adds Sanjeev Mansotra, who in addition to his role as a successful entrepreneur is a prolific writer in several areas such as agriculture, productivity, education and self-development: “The productivity gains driven by agricultural mechanization are especially game-changing for smaller farmers. This also often allows some family members to seek employment elsewhere, which augments overall family income”.
In addition to improving crop yields, agricultural mechanization through the use of tractors, along with multiple types of animal-powered and human-powered tools, internal combustion engines, and electric motors, enables farmers to minimize losses due to manual crop handling, reduce fodder areas, increase farming areas, and hedge against labor-related inflation. Whereas the cost of labor typically rises each year, the cost of a loan to purchase a tractor, thrasher, or other piece of agricultural equipment does not.
Agricultural mechanization helps establish strategic alliances between multiple farms and drives large-scale crop production for purchase by agro-allied industries. These are a core component of the economy across Africa and refer to industries whose primary raw materials derive from agricultural products, such as the beverage industry and its reliance on coffee, cocoa and tea, or the feed mill industry and its reliance on cereals and grains. Adds Sanjeev Mansotra: “These strategic alliances help farmers shift from volatile, risky and sometimes perilous subsistence farming, to controlled, predictable and profitable commercial agriculture”.
Agricultural mechanization helps farms reduce reliance on wasteful, low quality sources of power such as coal, and switch to cleaner and more efficient options such as solar power and hydroelectric. Studies have shown that combing solar panels with agriculture not only reduces carbon footprint, but it also makes farming more productive and profitable.
Agricultural mechanization enables land that would otherwise go unused, to reclaimed and remediated to support long-term crop growth. Adds Sanjeev Mansotra: “For example, using tractors to plough land extends the overall cultivated area, fills depressions and gorges, gets rid of deep-rooted weeds, and helps prevent soil erosion.”
Agricultural mechanization turns farm work from a difficult, dangerous, tedious and exhaustion task, into an efficient, modern technology-led activity. Sanjeev Mansotra explains that this not only invigorates and energizes farmers — which boosts morale, productivity and performance — but it makes farm work more promising for younger, educated citizens who have historically been unwilling or financially unable to bring their skills, knowledge and potential into the agricultural space.
In addition to improving the quality of life for farmers and families, agricultural mechanization also improves the quality of crops. Adds Sanjeev Mansotra: “For example, the use of agricultural mechanization significantly enhances soil quality and fertility, which ultimately makes fertilizers more effective and generates both a higher quality and quantity of crop yields.”
Agricultural mechanization in Africa or elsewhere on the planet is not a panacea. There are some core challenges to overcome, such as high initial capital costs, worker displacement, lack of technical knowledge (about one-third of people in sub-Saharan Africa are illiterate, and many of them are in rural areas), and the fact that some crops (and hence the farms that have traditionally cultivated them) are more amenable to mechanization, such as rice vs. yams.
Yet, the benefits of agricultural mechanization are compelling; and simply impossible to ignore and perilous to neglect. Agricultural mechanization is the future of farming and paves the way for a better life and lifestyle for farmers, families, communities, countries and continents.