FAO Regional Office for Africa

Sustainable agricultural mechanization

Transforming rural families’ livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa

Participants following the discussion during the first session (Photo: © FAO/Habil Evans)

1-3 December 2016, Nairobi – Over 100 international agriculture and food experts, including from 27 African countries gathered in Nairobi to discuss ways to boost agricultural mechanization for the benefit of smallholder farmers in the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region. Farm mechanization has huge potential for increasing agricultural production and transforming rural families’ livelihoods by reducing drudgery in the field, enhancing sustainable intensification, more efficient use of farm inputs as well as making food-growing activities more “climate-smart”.

In many African countries, including in Kenya, where farmers are part of an ageing community, agricultural mechanization can play a powerful and successful role in attracting youth and making them active players in the agriculture and food sectors and along the value chain.

With the aim to discuss and identify new models for sustainable agricultural mechanization in the sub-Saharan African region, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the World Bank, The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the African Conservation Tillage Network (ACT) and other partners organized a Consultative Meeting on a Mechanization Strategy for Africa.

The meeting provided a platform for agriculture experts and service providers to discuss sustainable mechanization strategy options for Sub-Saharan Africa by putting both public-private and private-private partnerships in the spotlight. Participants exchanged knowledge, perspectives, experiences, good practices and lessons learned with the aim to identify potential strategy options for the sustainable development of agricultural mechanization in the region.

The event brought together policy-makers, academia, representatives of the private sector and financial institutions, farmer organizations and beneficiaries as well as national, regional and international organizations from all over the world to discuss viable and collaborative models for agricultural mechanization in the SSA region.

Nkanya, Chief Engineer and Representative of the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, launched the three-day event by stressing that “the reduction of poverty and food insecurity critically depends on a sustainable and growth-based agricultural sector that is also the foundation of sustainable social and economic growth”.

“Growth within the agricultural sector is dependent on three factors: innovation, innovation and innovation” said Robert Allport, FAO Assistant Representative in Kenya, emphasizing the crucial role of innovation within the sector. “Mechanization is the part of agriculture, where innovation is most likely to happen.  However, when we talk about mechanization, we need to focus not only on the machines, but also on financial mechanisms that enable farmers to access machines already available on the market. Broadening the scope of innovation and innovating throughout the whole value chain can change the face of agriculture in the region and make more food available to all Africans”, he added.

Climate-smart

One of the main conclusions of the meeting stressed that agricultural mechanization needs to be adapted to local conditions, because no one recipe exists for the differing ecological conditions in which African farmers operate. Besides local adaptation of mechanization, it is crucial that agricultural mechanization is environmentally compatible, economically viable and that in the view of the changing climate, it is climate-smart.

Participants agreed at the meeting that FAO, in collaboration with partners, would take the lead in developing a concept note to advance sustainable mechanization in Africa. The note would be action-oriented with clearly-identified responsibilities and will be tabled at the high-level meeting of the African Union Commission for endorsement in 2017.

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