In this section, you may find new materials that have been published on the topic of “Smart and Affordable farming solutions for Africa: the next driver for agricultural transformation”, since the date of the event. We continually select major new publications and articles that add up to the policy points discussed in this briefing.

Youth, smart phones and tractors in Africa – a new agrarian class?
Institute of Development Studies, 14 November 2017

Farming mechanisation is back on the policy and research agenda. Although some old debates – on roles of the state and on appropriate type and scale of technology – remain relevant, there are new players, new themes and new technologies, as well as fresh opportunities for mutual learning and exchange across the Global South. A recent conference on South-South Knowledge Sharing on Agricultural Mechanization in Addis Ababa, organised by IFPRI, CIMMYT and the Ethiopian Agricultural Mechanization Forum, showcased some novel experiences with mechanisation, cutting across very different landscapes and agrarian societies. Here we reflect on the connection between agricultural mechanisation and young people and sketch out a research agenda.

Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization for Smallholders: What Is It and How Can We Implement It?
Brian Sims and Josef Kienzle, 10 June 2017

Smallholder farmers are the main producers of the world’s food and they will have to increase production by up to 100 percent by 2050 to feed the growing population. This must be achieved while preserving natural resources and that is why sustainable agricultural mechanization (SAM) will be fundamental to the process. SAM is climate-smart and environmentally benign and essentially means no-till conservation agriculture, which requires specific mechanization inputs. Principally, these are seeders and planters capable of penetrating soil surface vegetative cover to deposit seed and fertilizer at the required depth and spacing; and equipment for management of cover crops and weeds. Mechanization is required not only for crop production, but also for processing and along the entire value chain. Mechanization inputs are usually expensive and so specialist service provision will be the indicated way forward.

Precision agriculture for African farmers
Wageningen University, June 4, 2017

Precision agriculture is not exclusive to the modern, western farmers. Smaller farmers in West Africa can also use precision agriculture to improve their harvest and labour productivity. This was revealed by a publication of the Wageningen agroecologist Ken Giller together with international colleagues.Farmers in the semi-arid part of West Africa have to deal with poor plant growth, varying precipitation, low soil fertility and a lack of labour, and they have little money and resources to solve these problems. That is why they benefit from cultivation measures that make efficient use of the available resources and diminish the risks of poor harvest. Precision agriculture can help the farmers improve their production, write the researchers in the journal Agronomy for Sustainable Development.

Perceptions On The Impact Of Agricultural Mechanization For Valur Addition And Beneficiation: As A Poverty Reduction Strategy In Zimbabwe’s Smallholder Farming Communities, A Case Of Matetsi Area In Hwange District Matabeleland North Region
International Journal of Business Marketing and Management (IJBMM), April 2017

An assessment on how smallholder farmers perceive the possible impact of agricultural mechanization for value addition to maximize producers’ beneficiation was carried out in Matetsi area of Hwange district; Matabeleland north province. It is imperative that after the launch of the country’s massive agrarian reforms and the initial mechanization of agronomic farm operations aimed at boosting agricultural productivity and production efficiencies in the newly fragmented farming units, mechanization for value addition and maximization of beneficiation became the missing link in advancing the livelihood of the new settlers. Seasonality in the production of most agricultural produce and lack of on-farm processing for value addition lead to minimal returns for the farmer, culminating in a situation where the majority of the farming households fail to break-even in most seasons hence forcing them to live in abject poverty and face critical food security challenges as alluded to by (FAO, 2007). For purposes of data collection a sample of 120 participants was randomly drawn from the ward’s population of 1 186 (District Central Statistics Department, 2016). These comprised farmers, officers from Agritex Agriculture Research and Extension Services; government departments such as Ministry of Agricultural Engineering and Mechanization as well as officials from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe RBZ and NGOs Non-Governmental Organizations operating in the study area. A questionnaire aided by individual household interviews was used to generate data from the respondents. Data obtained was subjected to grass margin and product net-value analysis as well as descriptive statistics for purposes of presenting findings. The study revealed that farmers were against the notion that they remain producers of raw materials for industries located elsewhere; they felt that their integration in to the production chain as manufacturers would agitate the aggregation of a robust agricultural system which is cost effective and a necessity for sustainable and self- financing rural agriculture

Value chain financing: evidence from Zambia on smallholder access to finance for mechanization
Enterprise Development and Microfinance , March 2017

Smallholder farmers in Zambia comprise 85 per cent of the farmers’ population. Such farmers are regarded as not creditworthy and furthermore their agricultural productivity could be improved. The aim of this paper is to present recent evidence on value chain financing (VCF) as a framework to increase access to agricultural finance for Zambian smallholder farmers. Such financing will act as an enabler to mechanize and, in turn, might improve productivity. Qualitative data collection techniques were followed to provide the results as presented in three illustrative case studies. Each case study highlights the benefits of financing, using the value chain framework, but also emphasizes certain challenges and risks associated with the approach. The Zambian case is not perfect, but provides recent evidence of how various roleplayers in Zambia’s agricultural sector have applied the VCF framework to coordinate the actions of various chain actors, and by doing so allow smallholders access to finance within the local and country-specific context. Although two of the three VCF programmes have been discontinued, they still provide useful learning points: for instance, commercial banks should assign more resources to manage the VCF products; and the risk should be shared between all the VCF participants.

Agricultural Mechanization in West Africa
Syngenta, 28 December 2016

Africa is the only region in the world where agricultural productivity has been largely stagnant since 1960s. Average cereal production in Africa stood at 1.5 ton/ha in 2014; the world average was 3.6 ton/ha. Experiences in some developing countries of Asia and Latin America show that agriculture could be transformed into progressive commercial industry. Investment in agricultural machinery has enabled farmers to intensify production and improve their income and quality of life. In countries such as India, China, Brazil and Turkey, the rapid expansion in farm machinery demand has stimulated the growth of local machinery manufacturing. These countries are now major producers and world leaders in farm machinery exports (FAO/UNIDO, 2008). The same development could happen in Africa, if farmers could intensify their activities through greater mechanization. This would lead to increased input use, higher food production, enhanced food security and reduced dependence on imports. This background paper looks at agricultural development and mechanization with a particular focus on West Africa. It describes the evolution of agricultural mechanization and discusses the major drivers and issues, followed by a look ahead.

Agricultural mechanization: A key input for sub-Saharan Africa smallholders
FAO, 2016

This paper is specifically about agricultural mechanisation: the opportunities provided by mechanisation for intensifying production in a sustainable manner, in value addition and agri-food value chain development, as well as the inherent opportunities implied for improved local economies and livelihoods. The establishment of viable business enterprises agro-processors, transport services, and so forth as a result of increased agricultural mechanisation in rural areas, is crucial to creating employment and income opportunities and, thereby, enhancing the demand for farm produce. Mechanisation plays a key role in enabling the growth of commercial agri-food systems and the efficiency of post-harvest handling, processing and marketing operations, and as such can be a major determinant in the availability and accessibility of food, the food prices paid by urban and rural poor, as well as contributing to increased household food security.

Fact sheet: Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization
FAO, 2016

Mechanization covers all levels of farming and processing technologies, from simple and basic hand tools to more sophisticated and motorized equipment. It eases and reduces hard labour, relieves labour shortages, improves productivity and timeliness of agricultural operations, improves the efficient use of resources, enhances market access and contributes to mitigating climate related hazards.

Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Fresh Look on Agricultural Mechanisation, 31/10/2016

Much of sub-Saharan Africa’s farmland is (still) cultivated with the hand hoe, and agricultural processing and transport are often done manually. This limits the potential of agriculture in the region and the attractiveness of agriculture and its value chains for the young generation. One important improvement could be the mechanisation of (parts of) the production processes. However, this implies high levels of investment and risks for farmers, and the necessary financing is especially difficult to access for longer-term agricultural investments such as mechanisation. In addition, there can be trade-offs between mechanisation and employment for and of the poor. For a better understanding of how mechanisation can contribute to food security, we first assess the non-financial aspects of mechanisation. In a second step, the difficulty in accessing financing is analysed, distilling success factors for financing mechanisation.

Mechanised agriculture essential in Sub-Saharan Africa, 29/09/2016

According to a new report from FAO, mechanisation and appropriate mechanisation strategies have a large role to play in improving agriculture productivity, particularly in Africa, in order to feed the growing world population. The opportunity must be guided in a way that meets smallholder farmers’ needs and that does not require a Green-Revolution type of approach with high levels of agrochemical inputs and destructive ploughing operations that threaten soil health and fertility, according to FAO’s new report. Agricultural mechanisation: A key input for Sub-Saharan African smallholders underlines that agricultural mechanisation in the twenty-first century should be environmentally compatible, economically viable, affordable, adapted to local conditions and, in view of current developments in weather patterns, climate-smart. Mechanisation covers all levels of farming and processing technologies, from simple and basic hand tools to more sophisticated and motorised equipment. It extends far beyond ploughing and can contribute to productivity gains and new jobs in the post-harvest, processing and marketing stages of local and global food systems.

‘Smart farming’ to help South Africans tackle drought, 23/09/2016

Southern African farmers know a lot about climate change due to the worsening drought conditions they face. But, according to agriculture and development researchers, these farmers lack the resources to put solutions that work into place. That is in part because government agricultural extension services, which offer training and advice to farmers, have too few agents, states a report by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, based in the Netherlands. In many cases, farmers are simply not aware of potential solutions, said Oluyede Ajayi, a senior programme coordinator with the centre, speaking on the sidelines of a meeting in Johannesburg on scaling up climate-smart agricultural solutions. Such shortcomings are one reason an ongoing drought in southern Africa has left 23m people dependent on food aid, with another 13m in need of help, according to the Southern African Development Community, which launched a €2.5bn emergency appeal in July.

Smart Technologies Key to Youth Involvement in Agriculture, 26/08/2016

She is only 24 and already running her father’s farm with 110 milking cows. Cornelia Flatten sees herself as a farmer for the rest of her life. “It’s my passion,” says the young German. “It is not just about the money but a way of life. My dream is to grow this farm and transform it to improve efficiency by acquiring at least two milking robots.” A graduate with a degree in dairy farming, Cornelia believes agriculture is an important profession to humanity, because “everyone needs something to eat, drink, and this requires every one of us to do something to make it a reality.” Simply put, this is a clarion call for increased food production in a world looking for answers to the global food problem where millions of people go hungry. And with the world population set to increase to over nine billion by 2050, production is expected to increase by at least 60 percent to meet the global food requirements—and must do so sustainably.

Food security in sub-Saharan Africa: a fresh look on agricultural mechanisation; how adapted financial solutions can make a difference
German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), July 2016

Much of sub-Saharan Africa’s farmland is (still) cultivated with the hand hoe, and agricultural processing and transport are often done manually. This limits the potential of agriculture in the region. Mechanisation can help to alleviate food shortages and enhance agricultural development. However, this implies high levels of investment for farmers and some risks for rural populations and eco-systems. The necessary financing is especially difficult to access and risky for longer-term agricultural investments such as mechanisation. In addition, there can be trade-offs between mechanisation and employment. To better understand how mechanisation an contribute to food security, this study first assesses the controversial impact of mechanisation on rural populations and their environments. In a second step, the difficulty in accessing financing is analysed, distilling success factors for financing mechanisation. Thereby, the study aims at bringing the sectors of agriculture and finance closer together with the overall objective of fighting food insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa.

Tractor Assembly to Begin At Makeshift Factory in Kibaha, 26/07/2016

The government is looking for temporary premises to begin tractor assembling by Polish tractor firm, Ursus S. A, as construction of an assembling plant is scheduled to begin this financial year at Kibaha in Coast Region. The Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Adelhem Meru, confirmed to the ‘Daily News’ yesterday that the project, which is part of a 110 million US dollars soft loan from Poland, would begin at a temporary location while construction plans for an assembling factory were being finalised. “We are looking for a temporary premise for assembling work to begin immediately before the construction of the plant starts,” he said over the phone on the planned tractor assembling plant billed to be one of the largest factories of its kind in East Africa.

Precision farming – the way to go for Africa, 26/07/2016

It is not wise and sustainable to continue practising conventional agricultural methods, such as ploughing and loosening the soil before planting as it puts stress on land resources and is worsened by effects of climate change, says global agricultural experts who convened in Brussels, Belgium, last week. The meeting brought together participants from the ACP-EU (Caribbean and Pacific countries and the European Union) technical centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), the European Commission, the EU Presidency, the ACP Group, Concord, and other partners on key issues and challenges for rural development in the context of EU-ACP cooperation. The participants, who attended the meeting titled “Affordable smart farming solutions for Africa: the next driver for African agriculture” on 13 July 2016, recommended farmers to use soil management techniques such as conservation agriculture to increase productivity as that reduces soil disturbance, permanent soil cover and crop rotation.

Smart and Affordable farming solutions, 22/07/2016

This Briefing was organised by the ACP-EU Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), in collaboration with the European Commission, the the European Commission / DEVCO, the ACP Secretariat, CONCORD, CEMA, Agricord and the PanAfrican Farmer’s Organisation (PAFO). Panel 1: Setting the scene: Drivers of smart-farming in Africa This panel discussed the available tools and approaches in support of smart-farming which can benefit the smallholders. It will also discuss public-private partnerships (PPPs) and multi-stakeholder alliances that aim at accelerating investments and transformative change in African agriculture.

Global Precision Farming Market 2016 Share, Trend, Segmentation and Forecast to 2020, 19/07/2016

Precision Agriculture involves systems, services and activities that collect, monitor, track, manipulate and analyse data pertaining to agriculture and farming namely information about the soil, crop, water, climate, yield, nutrients and other environmental factors. More so, the technology primarily handles the variability in the above mentioned factors. Precision Agriculture not only ensures efficient use of resources, maximizes output and profitability, but also provides a sustainable solution to farm management practices. The global precision farming market which is projected to witness CAGR of 12.64% over the period 2014 to 2020, will cross $ 5.5 billion in total market value by the end of forecast period.

Improved infrastructure ‘will make Africa more competitive’, 18/07/2016

New efforts by the Africa to develop key infrastructure facilities on the continent will help attract new investments and accelerate economic growth, as well as ease challenges faced by women. The Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), spearheaded by the African Union Commission (AUC), is the first master plan that has been supported by all AU members to guide infrastructure development on the continent. Speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing 27th African Union Summit in Kigali on Friday, Elham Mahmood Ibrahim, the AU commissioner for infrastructure and energy, said improving the continent’s infrastructure will play a huge role of helping Africa realise its immense potential, ensure sustainable growth, and reduce poverty and income inequality among the masses.

FAO: The EU has a role in Africa’s agriculture mechanisation, 15/07/2016

What are the main challenges of Africa’s mechanisation? Several unsuccessful efforts were made in the past, what is different now? Let’s start from the colonial times. When African countries became independent, either from French, English or to a smaller extent, Belgian rule, there was something left behind in the case of the British system; which was the public sector control of agriculture, including farm mechanisation services. So, it was part of the agriculture ministry’s business to provide farmers with services. African countries continued this approach, although it was heavily subsided by loans from the World Bank, and the whole process was getting very expensive and inefficient. There were public servants providing services for the mechanisation sector. But, for instance, they stopped working at 17:00 on Friday, and therefore there were no services provided on Saturday morning. These things normally do not happen in the private sector.