Integrating mechanisation into strategies for sustainable agriculture
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CTA. 1998. Integrating mechanisation into strategies for sustainable agriculture. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/63716
Mechanisation background and scope Farm production and rural transport require power.
Mechanisation background and scope Farm production and rural transport require power. There are three main options: human work, animal power and the use of motors. The choice depends on local circumstances. Human, animal and machine power can complement each other in the same household, farm and village. Agricultural mechanisation involves the use of tools, implements and machines to improve the efficiency of human time and labour. The most appropriate machinery and power source for any operation depends on the work to be done and the relative desirability, affordability, availability and technical efficiency of the options. A hand hoe may be the best tool for intensive vegetable production. However, if much work needs to be done, human power alone is generally slow and tiring. Mechanisation, using animal or motor power, can significantly increase the productivity of human labour and improve the quality of life for women, men and children. Agricultural mechanisation is not an end in itself, but a means of development. The goal is sustainable and socially-beneficial agricultural production. The hardware is just one component of very complex farming systems. A wide range of social, economic and ecological factors determine whether a technology is practicable, beneficial and sustainable in an area. Sometimes mechanisation is confused with motorisation and tractorisation. Tractor power is just one option. In sub-Saharan Africa, some of the most successful mechanisation introductions have used animal power. In the CTA seminar and in this report, mechanisation is understood to encompass a range of technologies, using human, animal or motor power. The present levels of the various forms of agricultural mechanisation in Africa can only be estimated. It is widely acknowledged that most agricultural work (perhaps 80%)depends entirely on human labour. Animals may perform up to 20% of the operations, while in tropical Africa tractors contribute only a small proportion of the total agricultural work. During the last decade, structural adjustment programmes have changed the economic environment of African agriculture. Changing prices, currency values, government services and policies have affected the profitability of agriculture in both smallholder and large-scale production systems. The conditions for profitable distributing and repairing agricultural equipment have also changed. In many countries, farmers have appealed to development programmes and governments for assistance with farm power and mechanisation. In some areas, farmers have demonstrated there is a clear economic demand for animal power tractors. In other areas, such mechanisation remains a dream, being economically unsustainable in present circumstances. Government services involved in the development of agricultural mechanisation have suffered from cuts in the national budgets. Some of their activities have been criticised for not generating sustainable effects. Although 6 Integrating mechanisation into strategies for sustainable agriculture mechanisation can clearly influence production and the evolution of agricultural systems, its role in national development strategies has often been poorly defined. In 1996,CTA commissioned a study of mechanisation experiences in Africa that was undertaken in association with FAO by Dominique Bordet and Rabezandrina. The analysis started with the following key observations: Public-sector tractor hire services have failed throughout Africa. Private sector tractors have been profitable on large landholdings: tractors have seldom proved viable for the smallholder sector, whether in individual or group ownership or in private hire services. The devaluation of currencies has dramatically increased the price of tractors relative to the value of harvested produce. Tractors and machinery supplied under aid programmes have often been unhelpful, being inappropriate unsustainable. They have diverted the work of agricultural engineering departments from more appropriate, sustainable technologies. Artisans (blacksmiths) have been largely ignored as agricultural machinery (such as animal-drawn plows and cultivators) has been imported or made in centralised workshops. Supply of equipment has been determined largely by public sector organisations and not by the genuine demand of farmers. Research has been top-down and given insufficient consideration to the social, economic and environmental realities of African farming systems.