Food Production involves a wide range of complex procedures such as land clearing, planting and weeding, harvesting, transportation, processing, storage and consumption. This process requires mechanization and technological inventions to improve and facilitate production as well as increase productivity. According to a study published by the International Conference of the West African Society of Agricultural Engineering, 90% of farmers in Nigeria conduct farm operations using hand tool technologies and traditional agricultural methods. This is the case because many farmers lack the resources to acquire agricultural machinery like tractors and ploughs. This article explains why agricultural mechanization is essential and the influence of startups like Tractrac.
What is Agricultural Mechanization?
According to the FAO, it is the process of improving farm labour productivity through the use of agricultural machinery, implements, and tools. It also involves the provision and use of all forms of power sources and mechanical assistance to agriculture, from simple hand tools to animal draught power (DAP), and mechanical power technologies. Agricultural mechanization is often associated solely with tractors and sophisticated agricultural machinery
According to FAO (Clarke, 1997), the term “Agricultural mechanization” generally refers to the application of tools, implements, and powered machinery as inputs to achieve agricultural production.
A sustainable agricultural mechanization strategy is a planning strategy that contributes to the goal of sustainable agriculture, and at the same time accepts food self-sufficiency and generates economic and inclusive growth as well as social benefits. Over the years the Nigerian agricultural sector has been lagging behind in terms of agricultural mechanization. Food production increases have not kept pace with population growth, resulting in rising food imports and declining levels of national food self-sufficiency (FMARD, 2008). It is estimated that Nigeria has lost USD 10 billion in annual export opportunity.
Furthermore, there are less than 5,000 tractors in Nigeria hence making it onerous to access tractors by smallholder farmers in Nigeria. These issues have made it tough to access mechanization services in Nigeria hence affecting productivity, livelihood and in turn Food security.
Financing tractors for smallholder farmers has been a daunting challenge. From the rise in exchange rate to the hurdles of meeting banks’ requirements, small holder farmers across Nigeria and Africa at large are unable to own tractors. Owning one is out of their league, yet they constitute 70% of farmers in Sub Saharan Africa.
Another key issue limiting market growth is tractor under-utilisation, attributable to disconnects in the market between tractor owners with idle assets and service providers able to maximise the productivity of those assets, and between supply and demand for tractor services across the country. There are pockets of tractors spread across the country predominantly owned by governments which are left fallow in yards, and others owned by individuals who are left with excess capacity after use of their tractors for their individual farmlands. The disconnect between demand and supply is attributable to location and communication challenges with service providers in one location being unable to effectively connect to demand in other locations given the current system for connecting to demand which relies on extensive on-ground infrastructural capabilities and investments in a wide-reaching agency network
Why Agricultural Mechanization is Important
The utilization of Agricultural mechanization can engender the growth and development for the following reasons:
- It has the ability to Increase the food production capacity of farmers leading to reduced poverty and improved livelihoods. The process of agricultural production poses not to be extraneous alone but very slow. This can affect the level of production and profit leading to little returns. Agricultural mechanization could hasten the process. For example, D. R. Bomford explained that, “The ploughman with his three-horse am controlled three- horse; power, when given a medium-sized crawler tractor controlled between 20 to 30 horse power. His output, there-fore, went up in the ratio of about 8: 1.” With an effective mechanized agricultural system, the foreign exchange earning potential would improve. Progression from subsistence to commercial farming promotes the exportation of food products to other countries.
- Agricultural mechanization increases the participation of the youth and the educated in farming activities. This is because it reduces the stress and drudgery involved in farming. Many youths derail from agriculture as a result of the strenuous efforts and energy it demands. Also, it improves the profitability of farming ventures which increases the interest of the masses.
It is found that the cost of production can be adjusted properly if mechanization is resorted. It will also ensure that income is multiplied and the farmers economic condition is improved. Therefore, there is a need for the government and private organisations to devise strategies that can spur agricultural development. Collaboration with private institutions is encouraged as well for the utilisation of expertise and other useful resources.
To this end, Tractrac created a platform that allows all value chain actors in mechanization to participate in improving access to affordable Mechanization services for smallholder farmers across Nigeria.
See how TracTrac is using its digital platform to reach two million farmers across Nigeria. The end goal is to enhance food security, productivity and livelihood of these farmers.
This is a guest post from TracTrac