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Agricultural mechanization technologies and equipment

Rural livelihoods in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa are under considerable strain and the economies and political environment in many countries are experiencing a period of significant transformation. Endemic poverty remains common. Agriculture, which forms the core of rural livelihoods, has a major influence on livelihood outcomes. Farm power (from human, animal and engine driven sources) is a crucial input in the agricultural production process. Shortages of farm power compromise the ability of families to cultivate sufficient land and have long been recognized as a major contributory factor to the increasing prevalence of poverty in the region. A study titled Contribution of farm power to smallholder livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa discusses the farm-power theme through the livelihoods philosophy. It highlights the overall problem of the availability of farm power and its interrelationships with socio-economic parameters of rural life. The report illustrates the great complexity of farm-power interrelations and problem areas that are clustered around the farm-power theme. It makes clear that farm-power availability is not simply a matter of promoting a certain technology or equipment. It shows that all aspects of the livelihoods of a rural household are connected to and affected by the available farm-power base.

Many publications on farm mechanization have tended to deal with tractors, or with draught animals, or with intermediate technology. The topic of farm power and mechanization also has tended to be separated from the actual process of growing crops. The result often led to a widespread misunderstanding of the topic and to misconceptions regarding the essential contribution of farm power and mechanization to small farmers' livelihoods and living conditions.

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Farm power and mechanization for small farms in sub-Saharan Africa, published in 2006, breaks away from this rather narrow approach by putting the different sources of farm power, mechanization, machines, equipment and tools in a much broader context. Farm power requirements need to be viewed with reference to rural livelihoods and to farming systems as well as to the critical area of labour saving in HIV/AIDS-hit populations. No one particular type of technology is advocated.

© T. BRABBEN
Treadle pump in Malawi
©FAO/B.G.SIMS
Farmer field-testing of a prototype planter
©FAO/B.G.SIMS
Direct drilling wheat into rice stubble with a Brazilian no-till seed drill

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