The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the African Conservation Tillage (ACT) network signed a memorandum of understanding to encourage greater access for small-scale farmers to farm mechanisation, such as two-wheeled tractors and other labour-saving machines.

The partnership also seeks to link the use of farming machinery to conservation agriculture a farming system that promotes minimum soil disturbance and the planting of complementary plants to enhance biodiversity and natural biological processes.

In Africa, smallholder farmers work manually with hand-held implements to prepare land, in about 65% of cases. Draught animal power accounts for roughly 25% of land preparation and engine-powered machines only 10%. In South Asia by comparison, manual labour accounts for 30% of land preparation, while engine power does 40% of the work, and in Latin America and the Caribbean engine power is used for half of all land preparation.

“This agreement is an important part of ACT and FAO’s work towards the adoption of sustainable agricultural mechanisation across Africa which has the potential to transform the lives and livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers. Massive adoption of sustainable agriculture, anchored in commercial, environmental and socio-economic sustainability, will significantly contribute to the attainment of the African Union’s Vision 25×25 of the Malabo Declaration and Agenda 2063 – The Africa We Want,” said Saidi Mkomwa, executive secretary of ACT at the signing.

“One of the ways we can achieve sustainable agricultural production in Africa is through the adoption of conservation agriculture and more appropriate mechanisation,” said FAO assistant director-general Bukar Tijani who heads FAO’s Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department. “This partnership for Africa will be a platform to bring together stakeholders from the private sector, farmers’ groups, civil society, agriculture ministries and beyond to collaborate to achieve our vision of a zero hunger world,” he added.

Linking mechanisation to sustainable agriculture

Mechanisation across the food value chain, from production and harvesting to handling, processing and transportation, alleviates drudgery, raises farm productivity, increases incomes and provides new jobs such as mechanisation services and repairs. Sustainable mechanisation can also conserve natural resources and enable agriculture systems to be more resilient to climate change.

The African Union has committed to banishing the hand hoe by 2025. Last year, FAO and the AU produced The Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization: A Framework for Africa (SAMA) and the agreement with ACT will contribute to implementing that framework.

The collaboration also aims to promote knowledge sharing and support greater policy dialogue on sustainable agricultural mechanisation and conservation agriculture.
ACT was established in 2006 and is a pan-African not-for-profit international organisation dedicated to improving livelihoods in Africa through sustainable agriculture, agro-ecology, and ecosystem management. – Press release