During the recently held Partnership for delivery week, Dr. Peter Kolawole, Postharvest Specialist of SARD-SC Project (coordinator of IITA Mechanization office) presented a paper on mechanization which highlighted the current status and future plans of IITA mechanization on agriculture. One of the reasons to mechanize agricultural processes is to reduce farm drudgery by using the appropriate machines. Dr. Kolawole‘s presentation brought to the fore the lack or poor mechanization of agricultural processes in many African countries, using a comparative analysis of the number of tractors per arable land between Asia and Africa.
Using the World Bank data of 200/100 sqm (10,000 ha) as a standard, he said Asia continent uses 146 tractors to 10,000 ha of land while Africa makes do with 13 tractors to 10,000 ha land which is still dismayingly low. While developed countries are deploying advanced and sophisticated mechanize d equipment such as drones and combined harvesters, African farmers still use crude implements such as hoes, cutlasses, machetes, a consequent of poor productivity and huge bills on food importation from abroad. “All these crude farm implements should be warehoused in the museum. We should not use these anymore in Africa,” said Kolawole.
In the light of the innovations IITA has brought about in its quest mechanized agriculture are post- harvest tools such as improved cassava peeling technology and threshers to reduce manual peeling of cassava and threshing. But more importantly, the P4D mechanization focus in IITA, Dr Kolawole said would be as follows: To increase the number of commercially active farmers/entrepreneurs by working with BIP and youth, through TAAT and Enable programs; introducing tractor providers and tractor hiring services; To improve tractor operator’s skills through practice; To encourage the use of machines available to agriculture; To increase the number of value added farm products.
For improved mechanization of farm processes, the following plans will be undertaken:Adaptive technology: Encouraging the use of the most appropriate methods, machines and equipment. Knowledge transfer: Creating a cadre of trained and specialized technicians, farmers and operators.Extension services: Providing farmers with the technology they need, under farmers’ terms. Communication: Promoting successes achieved to a wider audience.
To out scale proven technologies, he said IITA hubs will be regional centers of excellence in agricultural mechanization for Africa. For efficiency, the importation and distribution of farm machinery will be basically a private-sector function as well as the establishment of adequate repair, maintenance and spare parts supply lines, and local stocks. “Mechanization unit will work to make sure that the requirements of farmers are met by providing simple design technology which will be versatile for use in different farm operations and very affordable to farmers, he said. Hence, using appropriate tools will no doubt remove drudgery and improve farmers’ wellbeing and enhance food production.