Better days for Africa’s small farmers as FAO, group seal deal

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By Akanimo Sampson

Better and rosy years lie ahead for neglected small-scale farmers in Africa as the Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, an agency of the United Nations and the African Conservation Tillage, ACT, Network have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to encourage their greater access to sustainable farm mechanisation, such as two-wheeled tractors and other labour-saving machines.

The ACT Network was established in 2006 and is a pan-African not-for-profit international organisation dedicated to improving livelihoods in the continent through sustainable agriculture, agroecology, and ecosystem management.

The partnership is seeking to link the use of farming machinery to conservation agriculture which is a farming system that promotes minimum soil disturbance and the planting of complementary plant species to enhance biodiversity and natural biological processes.

In Africa, smallholder farmers use their own muscle power, such as hand hoes, for around 65 per cent of the total labour needed for land preparation, with draught animal power accounting for 25 per cent and engine-powered machines just 10 per cent.

In South Asia by comparison, human muscle power is used for 30 percent of land preparation work, while engine power represents 40 percent, 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 new deal signing on Thursday.

For the FAO Assistant Director-General, Bukar Tijani, who heads the Organisation’s Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department, ‘’one of the ways in which we can achieve sustainable agricultural production in Africa is through the adoption of Conservation Agriculture and more appropriate mechanisation.

“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. ‘’

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 latest agreement with the ACT Network 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.

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