African farm mechanization in need of research and development

African farm mechanization in need of research and development

Mechanization for Rural Development: A review of patterns and progress from around the world
Josef Kienzle1, John E. Ashburner, Brian G. Sims
Integrated Crop Management Vol. 20-2013
FAO, Rome, 2013. 366 pages

Farm mechanization seems to have become, to a certain extent, the neglected waif of agricultural and rural development. As an essential input, mechanization can transform farm family economies by facilitating increased output and reducing the drudgery of hand-powered production. Mechanization, when carefully selected and appropriate to the task, is also capable of protecting natural capital and the environment whilst boosting food production.

However we have seen in recent years that consideration of mechanization as a vital input, in need of research and development, has been frequently neglected. Agricultural engineering departments in the CGIAR’s international research centres have been wound down and closed and the availability of world-class undergraduate training is also in serious decline. Why this should be the case is not clear when careful studies have made it abundantly clear just how crucial an input mechanization is in the pursuit of global sustainable crop production intensification and improved rural livelihoods.

Inputs of mechanization and related services at the appropriate technology level can have a tremendous impact on reducing drudgery which is in itself already a major, socially driven, motivation and reason for increasing support to agricultural mechanization.

This present set of 16 discussion papers provides a world-wide kaleidoscope of farm mechanization issues for developing countries and brings out many site-specific (or rather region-specific) issues which should be of vital interest to policy makers globally.

Agricultural mechanization in Africa. Time for action. Planning investment for enhanced agricultural productivity. Report of an Expert Group Meeting. UNIDO January 2008, Vienna, Austria; 23 pages.

AfricaRice is actively leading major mechanization efforts across Africa especially in its 25 member states (

A quick list of activities:

  • facilitation of a network called the ‘Rice taskforce on mechanization’. These are small-medium agricultural manufacturers with established businesses and researches from national research institutes . AfricaRice works with them to adapt the design and functionalities of several rice machineries. It conducts surveys of the needs and requirements of local manufacturers to better provide capacity strengthening initiatives specific in each country. 
  • conduct on-the-site training and construction. We organise intensive training of at least 2 weeks with hands-on construction of equipment. In the end, the trainees can construct and sell equipments locally. An example is the recent workshop in Ilorin, Nigeria, last December 2013. With the support of the Nigerian governments, and major donors (AfDB, Canada- The Ministry of Forein affairs Trade et development). We gathered 29 local equipments fabricators and engineers who worked together to fabricate 5 ASI threshers. In addition, 6 representatives of local manufacturers from Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda and Sierra Leone attended the training. In turn, these countries will train other local fabricators to construct the same equipment in their countries. 
  • listen and adapt equipment to local conditions and socio-economic capacities. An example are the weeders where we worked with local manufacturers and farmers. Once validated, the technical designs of these equipment are shared. At least 7 weeders have been tested and currently produced locally across Africa.
  • – see weeder technical designs
    – Watch ASI thresher introduced by Africa Rice and built by Senegalese local manufacturer, Agritech 

  • Beyond mechanization is quality control of products of these equipment. We intensively monitor and track the performance of the equipment made locally by key manufacturers trained by AfricaRice.
    In two year’s time (2012-2013) , AfricaRice has been able to hold trainings and built not just equipment but local capacities;
    • 8 local manufacturers from 8 countries were trained to build the mini-combine harvester in Saint-Louis Senegal 
    • 57 local manufacturers trained on the ASI thresher from 10 countries (Ghana 2, Nigeria 25, Senegal 2, Uganda2 , Sierra Leone 2, Gambia 10 , Cameroon 1, Mali 12 , Ethiopia 1 , Tanzania 1) 
    • 2 threshers light model built and 1 paddy cleaner built (under testing) in Uganda 
    • 3 mini-combine harvester built in Senegal (2 were prototypes sent to Mali and Cameroun). In Mali, the prototype was used to train 12 local manufacturers 
    • 5 ASI threshers called ATAT in Nigeria 
    • 3 parboiling vessel fabricated in Nigeria, Cameron and Mali 
    • 2 stoves for parboiling operations fabricated in Cameroun and Nigeria 
    • 3 Briquetting machine using husks built in Nigeria and Cameroun
      In 2014, several similar training of trainers ( at least 23 countries) are scheduled especially for the following equipment: 
      • Rice hullers and grading machine 
      • Thresher and Small Combine harvester 
      • Flat-bed dryers 
      • Parboilers : see the design
      • Weeders 
      Related: Rice mechanisation from the private sector – Liberia
      ADA/LAP Rice Project in Lofa County, Liberia

      The Liberian rice market is dominated by foreign rice imports. Poor quality and lack of alternatives mixed with a culture of great national pride creates a strong favour for Liberian brands. ADA COMMERCIAL tales advantage of this fixed market mood through a marketing strategy that emphasizes patronising Liberian rice. 

      ADA COMMERCIAL is a company incorporated under the Laws of the Republic of Liberia to undertake commercial agribusiness and related activities to increase food security in Liberia and the West African sub-region. It is fully owned by the McIntosh family in Liberia. The government heavily relied on it (ADA) to employ jobless citizens of Lofa County, especially ex-fighters but Liberia is looking for another investor to replace the initial Libyan engagement.

      With the vision of becoming a global and preferred agribusiness leader in West Africa, ADA COMMERCIAL’s mission is to organise, produce, and market rice and other agricultural commodities to the consumers. Through a concession agreement with the Government of Liberia, ADA COMMERCIAL has gained access to 60,000 hectares which is an area large enough to saturate the demand of Liberia and consequently to start exporting significant volumes of rice to the international market. NERICA rice is the rice of choice for commercial production.

      Production takes place in both upland and lowland (swamp) ecologies and is fully mechanized. Three (3) production cycles is envisaged for each production year. ADA COMMERCIAL has a fully developed and sophisticated machine park capable of handling every production stage, from planting, through growth and harvest. The development and integration of an outgrower programme constitutes a significant aspect of ADA COMMERCIAL’s production plan.

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