The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the African Union on Friday unveiled a blueprint to ratchet up agricultural efficiency and wipe out drudgery by helping countries in Africa to roll out strategies for sustainable farm mechanization, FAO stated.
"Doubling agricultural productivity and eliminating hunger and malnutrition in Africa by 2025 will be no more than a mirage unless mechanization is accorded utmost importance," AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Josefa Sacko, said at the launch of the framework document at FAO headquarters in Rome.
Over three-quarters of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are unmechanized and are still cultivating their crops with hand tools alone, FAO noted.
The practice results in low productivity and the alienation of young people from farming as an occupation, and cannot help the continent eliminate hunger, FAO underlined.
"Farmers in Africa should be able to use modern agricultural technology, both digital and mechanical, to boost the agricultural sector in a sustainable way," said FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo.
The 'Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization: A Framework for Africa' strategy document was hammered out after discussions with policy makers from AU member states, the AU Commission, FAO and key partners, the UN agency said.
The strategy document gives an in-depth history of machinery in Africa, and flags up current challenges and ways of creating new opportunities to ensure farmers' successful adoption of mechanization, FAO said.
The blueprint identifies 10 priorities for AU member states to include in their national plans, including the need for a stable supply of machine spare parts and innovative financing mechanisms, and the importance of regional collaboration that allow for cross-border hiring services.
To be successful, national mechanization strategies need to address key sustainability issues including gender, youth, environmental protection and the overarching principle that farming must be profitable, according to the blueprint.
These strategies should cover the entire agrifood value chain, including harvesting, handling, processing and food safety aspects, with an eye to reducing food losses, boosting rural employment and bolstering the links between farmers and consumers, the blueprint said.