POTENTIALS AND CONSTRAINTS OF AGRICULTURAL MECHANISATION IN GHANA–A REVIEW

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

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. 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.000 ha whereas the potential area. including inland valleys that could be developed for irrigation was estimated at 500.000 farm enterprises nationwide practised irrigation of various types in 1999. Republic of Ghana. the country remains highly dependent on food imports. However. Despite the importance of agriculture to most African economies. Mechanisation of agricultural . yam and plantain. 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. Self-sufficiency is achieved only in starchy staples such as cassava. 2008). transport and storage. 2007). while rice and maize production falls far below demand (Economist Intelligence Unit. In central and western Africa. while the land cultivated by humans is an estimated 40% in East Asia and 30% in South Asia. investment in agriculture with respect to mechanisation in Africa is still low (FAO and UNIDO. Ghana’s agricultural production currently meets only half of domestic cereal and meat needs and 60 per cent of domestic fish consumption. According to MoFA (2007). although an estimated 6. agricultural production is generally dependent on rainfall. Moreover. weeding.000 ha (MoFA. tilling the land with hand tools such as cutlasses and hoes and transporting their produce by head load. 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. The agricultural sector in Ghana is characterized as predominantly practised on smallholder. Ghana’s natural conditions for agriculture are advantageous. In 2002. 2007). storage and processing methods. the tedious fieldwork and low returns to labour make agriculture increasingly unattractive for the youth. family-operated farms using rudimentary technology to produce about 80 percent of Ghana’s total agricultural output. Additionally. Majority of Ghanaian farmers still work at very low levels of mechanisation. 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.40 percent of agricultural produce is lost owing to poor post-harvest handling. they account for an estimated 85% and 70% of harvested area respectively. and despite low productivity. the total area under formal irrigation was around 11. 2007. harvesting.

which promoted the technology in an attempt to expand cash crop production to serve the industrialized world. The objective of this study is to review the potentials and constraints of agricultural mechanisation on Ghana’s agriculture. Draught animal technology refers to implements and machines utilizing animal muscle as the main power source. 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. it limits work rate since intermittent rest periods are required. This study also seeks to make recommendations necessary for the proper adoption and practice of agricultural mechanisation in Ghana. . missionaries and different colonial administrations. storage. In areas where traction was introduced. harvesting. 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. In South Africa. implements. while in most parts in SSA it started at the beginning of the twentieth century. Modernizing agriculture through mechanisation is an issue of concern in Ghana. animal. Agricultural land development. Because the human muscle is the main power source in this technology. Mechanisation also embraces the manufacture. it is still unclear as to what options are already available and what should be followed to achieve this goal. However. As a result of this. machines and equipment for agricultural development. and mechanical.production is seen as the missing link to agro-processing and the development of agro-based industries (Loos. a farmer can only cultivate one hectare of land. it started in the fifteenth century. 2002. 2006). Mechanisation includes three main power sources: human. On the average. 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. preparation for storage. most of them are involved in subsistence agriculture leaving large tracks of land uncultivated. The use of draught animals dates back to 2000 BC in Ethiopia. FAO. Animal traction is one of the sources of power in smallholder agriculture in the region. and operation of all types of tools. crop production. distribution. it was mainly associated with European settlers.

Same and Leyland are used in various parts of the country for both agricultural and non-agricultural purposes. Bawku. Wenchi and the Afram Plains (Kumi. 1997). Kumawu. Subsequently. The most common tools used as hand tool technologies are the hoe. Different makes of tractors such as Massey Ferguson. in the periods leading to independence of most Sub-Saharan countries and immediately thereafter. harvesting and threshing (Bobobee. Ejura. 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. new government and NGO projects were launched to support further diffusion of ox traction (Herbst. are used for land preparation operations (Clarke and Bishop. After gaining independence. Famiyeh. However. 1993). 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. This led to the establishment of large tractorisation scheme in developing countries in the 1960s. produce raw material for local industries and increase foreign currency reserves (FAO. donor countries and tractor manufacturers before the drive was taken up by government. . Techiman. Draught animal is mainly employed for ploughing. Ford. weeding. draught animal technology is widespread. Case International. 1997) but was neglected immediately after independence because it was considered to be outdated and inappropriate. 42% use draught animal power and 8% use mechanical power in agriculture. some of these projects ended in the early 1990’s. John Deer. 1993. machetes and axes for clearing land. but they spread quickly through tractor hire schemes for small farmers. seedbed preparation and harvesting. Little draught animal power is used for planting. Studies conducted by FAO and UNIDO (2008) in Ghana estimated that about 50% of farmers use hand tool technologies. ridging and transportation of farm produce. 2002). They were first used in commercial white settlers’ farms. Today. 2002). ox traction received new attention. initially promoted by aid agencies. Tamale. 2005). Navrongo.contributing up to 40% of the total power use in some countries such as Botswana (Pawlak et al. Most of these tractors however. Policies favouring tractorisation were initiated. Tractors are mostly found in areas such as Nyankpala. Tractors were introduced in Africa from the 1940s onwards. weeding. Animal traction was introduced to farmers in Northern Ghana in the early 1930s (Bobobee. Swaraj. especially in the three Northern regions of the country.. 2005). After tractorisation attempts failed in the 1960s and early 1970s.

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. 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.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. 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. mechanisation is the best option so far as timeliness of farm operations is concerned. when such operations are performed through indigenous methods. Apart from increasing the output per hour. countries that have stagnated economically with significant numbers of their citizens in abject poverty have also lagged behind in agricultural mechanisation. which has been possible by way of mechanisation. a key question that arises is whether SubSaharan African (SSA) countries. plant protection. the total labour . irrigation. Farm mechanisation has been helpful to bring about significant improvement in agricultural productivity. farm operations before and after sowing a crop need to be performed at appropriate times otherwise the yield and farm income is affected adversely. On the other hand. use of fertilizers. Higher productivity of land and labour is another factor which justifies the need for agricultural mechanisation. Secondly. their efficiency is reduced. Trends in mechanisation worldwide clearly show that there are strong correlations between economic growth and mechanisation (FAO and UNIDO. The various agricultural operations such as land levelling. The factors that justify the strengthening of farm mechanisation in the country can be numerous. 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. However. For example. sowing and planting. the quality and precision of the operations are equally significant for realizing higher yields. For instance. In cases where large hectares of land are put under cultivation. 2008). there is the need for mechanisation of agricultural operations. The timeliness of operations has assumed greater significance in obtaining optimal yields from different crops.

a number of arguments have been advanced against farm mechanisation. On the other hand. This is a matter of concern because of disturbing trends that show that agriculture in SSA has fallen behind in many respects. 2005). it only results in the shifting of the labour from one vocation to the other. Mechanisation of farm operations offers a better chance for reducing the cost of production as it saves labour. presents enormous potentials that allows for increased agricultural productivity and improved living standards of farmers. Thus. as well as increased undernourished populations (FAO. Moreover. Also. the drudgery for human labour is reduced and unhygienic operations such as handling of farm yard manure can be done with machinery. Further. The displaced labour may of course be absorbed in the other job alternatives created by the increased mechanisation such as manufacturing. The use of farm mechanisation enlarges the employment opportunities both on farms and in non-farm sectors through increase in area under plough. As production increases with mechanisation of the farm operations. Constraints to Agricultural Mechanisation Progress in mechanisation in much of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has stalled over the past three decades. repair and service shops and the after sales services. multiple cropping. development of agro-industries and related services. it reduces the weather risk and risk of non-availability of labour and thus wastage is minimized. cleaning and handling. it creates a good scope for commercialization of agriculture. . In the absence of mechanisation. displacement of human labour does take place and demand for semi-skilled labour in place of unskilled labour is increased. Agricultural mechanisation without doubt. 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. large scale production means less per unit cost on the farms.requirement is also reduced. including the reduction of food production per capita of agricultural value addition and of agricultural imports relative to exports. the ever-increasing wage rate of human labour and cost of upkeep for draught animals could have increased the cost of production much higher. However. both human and bullock. Timely marketing is also made possible by quick mechanical transportation.

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. majority of small cultivators are poor (Clarke and Bishop. 2002) and are not in a position to purchase the costly machinery like tractors. If Ghana wants to attain middle-income status by 2015. Moreover. Also. idle machinery means unnecessary high costs unless proper alternate use of such machinery in the off-season is made. agriculture will have to grow by at least 6 per cent per year. on a national scale. The lack of repair and replacement facilities especially in the remote rural areas is another hindrance in efficient small farm mechanisation. and for that matter Ghana are elaborated as follows: First is the need for effective demand for the outputs of agricultural production in national. equipment is sometimes unsuited to the operating conditions (i. farm machinery generally remains underutilized. 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. food security. Secondly. the small size and scattered holdings of farmers stand in the way of mechanisation. increased food production. Thus. enhanced rural prosperity and. Due to the seasonal nature of the agriculture practised in the country. and the modernisation of agriculture is imperative. farm machinery remains idle for much of the time. regional and . the soil. Some of the essential factors for successful and sustainable agricultural mechanisation in Sub-Saharan Africa.e. combine harvesters etc. Increasing farm mechanisation will increase employment in secondary and tertiary sectors but it does displace labour in farm operations. climate and agro-ecological conditions) and causes them to deteriorate faster. Machinery requires skilled labour to operate and maintain.Firstly. 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. Unplanned mechanisation can cause unemployment through labour displacement. As a result of this. greater export potential and less reliance on imports. This would lead to improved land use.

nationally or regionally where this is feasible. including appropriate macro-economic policies. technicians and engineers as well as commercial farmers and agribusiness managers. and freer movement of machinery across district and national boundaries to exploit the rainfall isohyets and peak land preparation seasons. (b) training of human resources for mechanisation including artisans. among others: (a) the creation of enabling environments for private enterprises to thrive. efficient tractor pools for hiring tractor services. including policies for land tenure. Without effective mechanisation. as well as local equipment manufacturing. availability of credit at reasonable interest rates. (c) research and development in both hardware (e. development of sustainable machinery rental markets. 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. including linkages to new suppliers/manufacturers. The third factor is the need to establish efficient agricultural machinery supply chains and service enterprises. Example. procuring tractors and farm implements alone is not an end in itself but a means to an end to achieving an effective mechanisation scheme. Training may be provided and research could be carried out sub regionally. 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. legal and regulatory frameworks. development and testing of equipment) and in software (e.g. Government policies that have already included such workable mechanisation scheme documents should not be kept on shelves but must be effectively implemented. . Other essential and priority factors for the public sector include.g. However. Ghana’s food and agricultural sector will not make the expected economic impact. appropriate mechanisation systems and support services for different farm sizes and the business skills to operate them). These profitable farming enterprises will in turn lead to an effective demand for agricultural inputs including mechanisation services.international markets that can be met through profitable farming enterprises.

2. D. Experiences and Lessons for Sustained Impacts..Present and Future Availability in Developing Countries. Chicago. Dogbe. S. (2007). B. Germany. Germany. Bishop Sambrook.Y. (1993). California.H. G. Centre de Coopération Internationale de Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement. FAO and UNIDO. Ashburner. Constraints and Research Options in Ghana. (2007). Clarke. and Bishop. Farm Power . (2006). B. Burkina Faso. Triomphe.. Economist Intelligent Unit. Contribution of farm power to smallholder livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa. Rome. J. Agricultural mechanization in Africa … Time for action: Planning Investment for Enhanced Agricultural Productivity. ASAE Annual International Meeting/CIGR World Congress. London.. 87. Rome. Agricultural and Food Engineering Working Document Series 8. pp 10-37.. Weikersheim. (2008). by C. (2005). August. 30 July 2002. Paper presented at SADACC Workshop Oct. 26 pp. P. Rome. Rome. J.. FAO. FAO. Bobobee. pp 28. Herbst. Report of an expert group meeting jointly held by FAO and UNIDO in Vienna on 29–30 November 2007. Boadi. Omargraf Verlag. A. The Politics of Reform in Ghana. Conservation Agriculture as Practised In Ghana. Agricultural and Food Engineering Technical Report No. Animal Traction Utilisaion. E. Berkeley. Daamgard-Larsen. 5–6 September. Bonn. A Survey of Agricultural Policies in Ghana. 1982–1991. FAO.12–15. A. Country Profile: Ghana. FAO. J. . (1997). FAO. pp 1-10. A. (1993). USA. Dartey. E. L. (2002). Ouagadougou.. Nairobi. University of California Press. C. Agricultural Mechanization in Mali and Ghana: Strategies. Famiyeh. (2010). African Conservation Tillage Network.References Boahen. Proceedings of an FAO Workshop held at the CIGR World Congress on Agricultural Engineering. J.

Constraints to Agricultural Development and Poverty Reduction in Ghana. German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ). Ministry of Food and Agriculture. F. M.D. A. Vol. August.C.Kumi. Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). Accra. . On the Development of Agricultural Mechanization to Ensure a Long-Term World Food Supply. G. Mechanisation and Agricultural Development: no miracle in Africa. Vol.. Republic of Ghana (2007). (2005). AccraGhana: MoFA. Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy (FASDEP II).. poverty and policy in West and Central Africa: Lessons from Cameroon. Thesis. Kumasi.C. Loos. McFarquhar. Agriculture. (2002).M. J. MoFA. M. (2008). Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy (FASDEP II). In: O. A study Farm Machinery Selection at Ejura and in Kumasi. (2002). O. Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS II) 2006-2009. Republic of Ghana (2005a). 1970 (12): 26-32. (2007). Pellizzi. H. Ghana. (2002). CIHEAM. Pawlak. 1.M and Hall. Paris. IV. Ghana and Mali.D. National Medium Term Private Sector Development Strategy 2004-2008. 70 pp. Sedentary Farming Systems Project. Invited Overview Paper. Agricultural Mechanisation in Ghana: The Challenge to Combine the Need for Increased Productivity with Sustainable Land Management.E.E. Agricultural Engineering International: the CIGR Journal of Scientific Research and Development. and Fiala. Trade and Agriculture Directorate. 45 pp. Unpublished BSc. Accra. Accra.