Mechanization to boost economic productivity in Africa

This is one of the messages that has emerged during the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7) held in Yokohama, Japan.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the world's highest area of uncultivated arable land but productivity lags far behind other developing regions. Yields are only around half of the international average, far below the growth levels needed to keep pace with food demand driven by population growth. Mechanization can dramatically improve the yield gap.

At a TICAD7 side-event hosted by the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD), a framework for sustainable agricultural mechanization in Africa was presented by the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

"Through appropriate mechanization, small scale farming can be transformed into a more market-oriented business, improving labour productivity and helping enable farmers to lift themselves out of poverty. To achieve this, we need to enhance access to mechanization services," FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said in his speech at the event.

"We need to relieve farmers of hard manual labour, particularly women, who have the double burden of working in the fields as well as caring for their households," the FAO Director-General added.

The framework, which was launched last year and is gaining traction in the region, aims to help countries replace antiquated tools with modern mechanization methods to achieve food security, agricultural development and overall economic growth.

It sets out priority elements for national mechanization strategies, including learning from other parts of the world where significant transformation of the agricultural sector has already occurred within a three-to-four decade timeframe, and supports the development of policies and programmes to realize Africa's goals.

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