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Amponsah, S. K and Oteng-Darko, P. Abstract As part of government’s effort to meet the UN Millennium Development goal of eradicating hunger and extreme poverty by the year 2015, there has been the need to modernise agriculture in order to achieve sustainable economic growth. In Sub-Saharan Africa and Ghana for that matter, the focus gradually is being shifted to mechanised agriculture which is necessary if food security in our part of the world is to be achieved. Without effective mechanisation, Ghana’s food and agricultural sector will not make the expected economic impact. The purpose of this study is to review constraints to agricultural mechanisation and suggest possible ways to help in the adoption of effective mechanisation schemes in Ghana. The major constraints to mechanisation are lack of skilled labour to operate such machinery, small farm sizes, unfavourable government policies and high cost of farm machinery. After realizing the enormous importance of mechanisation to the country’s agricultural growth, the way forward will be the framing of suitable policies such as land tenure, encouraging cooperative management and custom hiring of machinery, imparting training to the farmers regarding such investment and encouraging standard service inputs. Keywords: agriculture, mechanisation, machinery, food security, government policies
Introduction and Rationale Agriculture is the economic mainstay of most African countries. FAO (2010) reported that in some African countries, agriculture generates up to 50 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), contributes over 80 percent of trade in value and more than 50 percent of raw materials to industries. It also provides employment for majority of Africa’s people. In Ghana, agriculture contributes 60% to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 65% to employment and 50% to exports (Boahen et al., 2007). Despite the enormous benefits Africa derives from Agriculture, it still remains the only region in the world where agricultural productivity is largely stagnant. According to FAO (2010), yields of maize and other staple cereals have typically remained at about 1000 kg/ha, which is about a third of the average achieved in Asia and Latin America. Furthermore, 30 to
Republic of Ghana. Self-sufficiency is achieved only in starchy staples such as cassava. although an estimated 6. the total area under formal irrigation was around 11.000 farm enterprises nationwide practised irrigation of various types in 1999. while the land cultivated by humans is an estimated 40% in East Asia and 30% in South Asia. Ghana’s natural conditions for agriculture are advantageous. The agricultural sector in Ghana is characterized as predominantly practised on smallholder. while rice and maize production falls far below demand (Economist Intelligence Unit. Investment in agricultural mechanization has enabled farmers in such countries to intensify production and improve their quality of life as well as contributing to national and local prosperity. Mechanisation of agricultural . Additionally.40 percent of agricultural produce is lost owing to poor post-harvest handling. weeding. harvesting. storage and processing methods. family-operated farms using rudimentary technology to produce about 80 percent of Ghana’s total agricultural output. Studies by Clarke and Bishop (2002) reported that humans are the most significant power source in sub-Saharan African countries where 65% of the land is cultivated by human power. Sustainable agricultural development enjoyed by most developing economies of Asia and Latin America over the past three decades has been made possible through the adoption of highly extensive agricultural mechanisation.000 ha (MoFA.000 ha whereas the potential area. In 2002. the tedious fieldwork and low returns to labour make agriculture increasingly unattractive for the youth. they account for an estimated 85% and 70% of harvested area respectively. These labour intensive production methods limit the area under cultivation and are responsible for severe yield losses due to untimely-performed operations such as planting. Ghana’s agricultural production currently meets only half of domestic cereal and meat needs and 60 per cent of domestic fish consumption. and despite low productivity. 2008). Majority of Ghanaian farmers still work at very low levels of mechanisation. According to MoFA (2007). yam and plantain. In central and western Africa. However. FAO and UNIDO (2008) cited the low level of engineering technology inputs in agriculture as one of the main constraints hindering the modernization of agriculture and food production systems in Africa. Despite the importance of agriculture to most African economies. transport and storage. 2007. including inland valleys that could be developed for irrigation was estimated at 500. investment in agriculture with respect to mechanisation in Africa is still low (FAO and UNIDO. Moreover. 2007). agricultural production is generally dependent on rainfall. tilling the land with hand tools such as cutlasses and hoes and transporting their produce by head load. the country remains highly dependent on food imports. 2007).
2002. . History of Agricultural Mechanisation Agricultural Mechanisation is the use of improved equipment or machines to either aid or replace human beings in the process of improving and modernizing agricultural operations. crop production. most of them are involved in subsistence agriculture leaving large tracks of land uncultivated. machines and equipment for agricultural development. FAO. it is still unclear as to what options are already available and what should be followed to achieve this goal. Mechanisation also embraces the manufacture. 2006). On the average.production is seen as the missing link to agro-processing and the development of agro-based industries (Loos. Animal traction is one of the sources of power in smallholder agriculture in the region. As a result of this. Because the human muscle is the main power source in this technology. and on-farm processing are some of the agricultural activities which require the utilisation of agricultural mechanisation if sustainable agricultural development is on the agenda. harvesting. missionaries and different colonial administrations. it limits work rate since intermittent rest periods are required. which promoted the technology in an attempt to expand cash crop production to serve the industrialized world. implements. it started in the fifteenth century. This study also seeks to make recommendations necessary for the proper adoption and practice of agricultural mechanisation in Ghana. and mechanical. while in most parts in SSA it started at the beginning of the twentieth century. it was mainly associated with European settlers. Modernizing agriculture through mechanisation is an issue of concern in Ghana. Draught animal technology refers to implements and machines utilizing animal muscle as the main power source. Agricultural land development. The objective of this study is to review the potentials and constraints of agricultural mechanisation on Ghana’s agriculture. and operation of all types of tools. In South Africa. Hand tool technology is the simplest and most basic level of agricultural mechanization which involves the use of simple tools and implements using human muscle as the main power source. However. preparation for storage. Mechanisation includes three main power sources: human. a farmer can only cultivate one hectare of land. animal. distribution. The use of draught animals dates back to 2000 BC in Ethiopia. storage. In areas where traction was introduced.
Famiyeh. 2005). After gaining independence. 1997) but was neglected immediately after independence because it was considered to be outdated and inappropriate. Kumawu. machetes and axes for clearing land. 1993). Policies favouring tractorisation were initiated. 42% use draught animal power and 8% use mechanical power in agriculture. Ejura. Ford. especially in the three Northern regions of the country. Tractors were introduced in Africa from the 1940s onwards. 1993. Little draught animal power is used for planting. The most common tools used as hand tool technologies are the hoe. Most of these tractors however. Mechanical power technology is the highest technology level in agricultural mechanization and embraces all agricultural machinery which obtains its main power from other sources other than muscular power. However.. 1997). ridging and transportation of farm produce. They were first used in commercial white settlers’ farms. 2002). . 2005). Different makes of tractors such as Massey Ferguson. ox traction received new attention. 2002). Today. draught animal technology is widespread. Draught animal is mainly employed for ploughing. harvesting and threshing (Bobobee.contributing up to 40% of the total power use in some countries such as Botswana (Pawlak et al. but they spread quickly through tractor hire schemes for small farmers. in the periods leading to independence of most Sub-Saharan countries and immediately thereafter. Navrongo. new government and NGO projects were launched to support further diffusion of ox traction (Herbst. John Deer. many governments promoted the use of tractors in an effort to increase both food and cash crop production in a drive to be self-sufficient in food. Studies conducted by FAO and UNIDO (2008) in Ghana estimated that about 50% of farmers use hand tool technologies. Bawku. Case International. Subsequently. Same and Leyland are used in various parts of the country for both agricultural and non-agricultural purposes. Tamale. This led to the establishment of large tractorisation scheme in developing countries in the 1960s. Wenchi and the Afram Plains (Kumi. Tractors are mostly found in areas such as Nyankpala. produce raw material for local industries and increase foreign currency reserves (FAO. initially promoted by aid agencies. some of these projects ended in the early 1990’s. Animal traction was introduced to farmers in Northern Ghana in the early 1930s (Bobobee. Techiman. donor countries and tractor manufacturers before the drive was taken up by government. seedbed preparation and harvesting. Swaraj. After tractorisation attempts failed in the 1960s and early 1970s. weeding. are used for land preparation operations (Clarke and Bishop. weeding.
mechanisation is the best option so far as timeliness of farm operations is concerned. Farm mechanisation has been helpful to bring about significant improvement in agricultural productivity. when such operations are performed through indigenous methods. For instance. the quality and precision of the operations are equally significant for realizing higher yields. In cases where large hectares of land are put under cultivation. farm operations before and after sowing a crop need to be performed at appropriate times otherwise the yield and farm income is affected adversely. sowing and planting. a key question that arises is whether SubSaharan African (SSA) countries. plant protection. sowing at the required seed rate and at the required depth and uniform application of fertilizer can only be possible with the use of proper mechanical devices. The factors that justify the strengthening of farm mechanisation in the country can be numerous. Thus. Considering the trends in mechanisation for the past three decades and the increasing globalization of the world’s agricultural economy. harvesting and threshing require a high degree of precision to increase the efficiency of the inputs and reduce losses. Higher productivity of land and labour is another factor which justifies the need for agricultural mechanisation. 2008). The timeliness of operations has assumed greater significance in obtaining optimal yields from different crops. Secondly. On the other hand. Trends in mechanisation worldwide clearly show that there are strong correlations between economic growth and mechanisation (FAO and UNIDO.Potentials of Agricultural Mechanisation Agriculture is the backbone of every nation and a very vital determining factor to achieving a stable and sustainable economic development. use of fertilizers. However. For example. which has been possible by way of mechanisation. countries that have stagnated economically with significant numbers of their citizens in abject poverty have also lagged behind in agricultural mechanisation. Apart from increasing the output per hour. their efficiency is reduced. there is the need for mechanisation of agricultural operations. particularly Ghana can realistically achieve a significant turnaround in development and growth with agricultural sectors that rely to a high extent on human muscle power and hand tools. Those countries that have achieved unprecedented economic growth over the past three decades and have succeeded in solving their food security problems have also advanced to higher levels of mechanisation in their agriculture. irrigation. the total labour . The various agricultural operations such as land levelling.
On the other hand. resulting in its low profile in national agricultural development strategies and largely dropping off the agenda of international development organizations as well as donor agencies. Timely marketing is also made possible by quick mechanical transportation. presents enormous potentials that allows for increased agricultural productivity and improved living standards of farmers. In the absence of mechanisation. a number of arguments have been advanced against farm mechanisation. it creates a good scope for commercialization of agriculture. it only results in the shifting of the labour from one vocation to the other. Agricultural mechanisation without doubt. it reduces the weather risk and risk of non-availability of labour and thus wastage is minimized. development of agro-industries and related services. Moreover. as well as increased undernourished populations (FAO. The displaced labour may of course be absorbed in the other job alternatives created by the increased mechanisation such as manufacturing. Constraints to Agricultural Mechanisation Progress in mechanisation in much of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has stalled over the past three decades. including the reduction of food production per capita of agricultural value addition and of agricultural imports relative to exports. As production increases with mechanisation of the farm operations. However. The use of farm mechanisation enlarges the employment opportunities both on farms and in non-farm sectors through increase in area under plough. . the ever-increasing wage rate of human labour and cost of upkeep for draught animals could have increased the cost of production much higher. cleaning and handling. Further. both human and bullock. repair and service shops and the after sales services. displacement of human labour does take place and demand for semi-skilled labour in place of unskilled labour is increased. large scale production means less per unit cost on the farms. Mechanisation of farm operations offers a better chance for reducing the cost of production as it saves labour. Thus.requirement is also reduced. This is a matter of concern because of disturbing trends that show that agriculture in SSA has fallen behind in many respects. Also. 2005). the drudgery for human labour is reduced and unhygienic operations such as handling of farm yard manure can be done with machinery. multiple cropping.
agriculture will have to grow by at least 6 per cent per year. Thus. farm machinery remains idle for much of the time. This would lead to improved land use. If Ghana wants to attain middle-income status by 2015.Firstly. Some of the essential factors for successful and sustainable agricultural mechanisation in Sub-Saharan Africa. the small size and scattered holdings of farmers stand in the way of mechanisation. majority of small cultivators are poor (Clarke and Bishop. Secondly. and for that matter Ghana are elaborated as follows: First is the need for effective demand for the outputs of agricultural production in national. combine harvesters etc. 2002) and are not in a position to purchase the costly machinery like tractors. increased food production.e. Machinery requires skilled labour to operate and maintain. dependence on fossil fuels by machines sometimes increases the cost of operation as the cost of fossil fuels is increasing globally and is sometimes scarce to come by. and the modernisation of agriculture is imperative. enhanced rural prosperity and. As a result of this. Due to the seasonal nature of the agriculture practised in the country. food security. farm machinery generally remains underutilized. climate and agro-ecological conditions) and causes them to deteriorate faster. greater export potential and less reliance on imports. Unplanned mechanisation can cause unemployment through labour displacement. Increasing farm mechanisation will increase employment in secondary and tertiary sectors but it does displace labour in farm operations. idle machinery means unnecessary high costs unless proper alternate use of such machinery in the off-season is made. regional and . Also. Moreover. Many tractor mechanisation programmes have failed in the past due to severe lack of skilled labour to maintain and run them efficiently and therefore shortening the life of tractors and equipment. Conclusion and Way Forward The boost in economic growth as seen in most developed countries through agriculture could also happen in Africa and Ghana for that matter if farmers could be helped to intensify their farming through increasing levels of mechanisation. on a national scale. equipment is sometimes unsuited to the operating conditions (i. the soil. The lack of repair and replacement facilities especially in the remote rural areas is another hindrance in efficient small farm mechanisation.
as well as local equipment manufacturing. Training may be provided and research could be carried out sub regionally. development of sustainable machinery rental markets. technicians and engineers as well as commercial farmers and agribusiness managers. These profitable farming enterprises will in turn lead to an effective demand for agricultural inputs including mechanisation services. efficient tractor pools for hiring tractor services. procuring tractors and farm implements alone is not an end in itself but a means to an end to achieving an effective mechanisation scheme. The second factor is the need to ensure effective utilization rates for machinery and implements through policies and other support services that facilitate multifarm use.g.international markets that can be met through profitable farming enterprises. among others: (a) the creation of enabling environments for private enterprises to thrive. Ghana’s food and agricultural sector will not make the expected economic impact. including policies for land tenure. . Government policies that have already included such workable mechanisation scheme documents should not be kept on shelves but must be effectively implemented. (c) research and development in both hardware (e. including appropriate macro-economic policies. (b) training of human resources for mechanisation including artisans. including linkages to new suppliers/manufacturers. appropriate mechanisation systems and support services for different farm sizes and the business skills to operate them). development and testing of equipment) and in software (e. The third factor is the need to establish efficient agricultural machinery supply chains and service enterprises. Other essential and priority factors for the public sector include. However. Example. nationally or regionally where this is feasible. and freer movement of machinery across district and national boundaries to exploit the rainfall isohyets and peak land preparation seasons. legal and regulatory frameworks.g. availability of credit at reasonable interest rates. Without effective mechanisation. It is therefore imperative that serious attention is given to the development of a workable document which will see to it that future mechanisation schemes do not only yield expected results but are sustainable.
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