Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization

Why mechanization is important

Mechanization is a crucial input for agricultural crop production and one that historically has been neglected in the context of developing countries. Factors that reduce the availability of farm power compromise the ability to cultivate sufficient land and have long been recognized as a source of poverty, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Increasing the power supply to agriculture means that more tasks can be completed at the right time and greater areas can be farmed to produce greater quantities of crops while conserving natural resources. Applying new technologies that are environmentally friendly enables farmers to produce crops more efficiently by using less power.

Sustainable agricultural mechanization can also contribute significantly to the development of value chains and food systems as it has the potential to render postharvest, processing and marketing activities and functions more efficient, effective and environmentally friendly.

Increasing levels of mechanization does not necessarily mean big investments in tractors and other machinery. Farmers need to choose the most appropriate power source for any operation depending on the work to be done and on who is performing it. The level of mechanization should meet their needs effectively and efficiently. Women play an important role in many farming based communities, and in some countries, up to 80 percent of the total farm labour comes from women. This implies that power sources (human, animal or motor-based) need to be adapted to such necessities from an ergonomic, social, cultural and economic point of view. The reduction of drudgery is a key element of sustainable mechanization and contributes to reducing women's hard workload by taking into consideration technologies apt to their needs and improving their access to appropriate forms of farm power.

Sustainable mechanization can:
   - increase land productivity by facilitating timeliness and quality of cultivation;
   - support opportunities that relieve the burden of labour shortages and enable households to withstand shocks better;
   - decrease the environmental footprint of agriculture when combined with adequate conservation agriculture practices; and
   - reduce poverty and achieve food security while improving people's livelihoods.