Agricultural mechanisation has emerged as a priority on the African development agenda. It is a powerful, but double-edged sword, which must be used carefully. On the positive side, mechanisation can play a key role in tapping underutilized agricultural potential, especially where access to labour, rather than land, constrains farmers. It can also reduce the burden of heavy physical work – often under hot, tropical weather conditions – that characterizes the work of the 70% of African farmers that use hand tools only. On the negative side however, mechanisation can cause an unequal distribution of land and wealth, and can lead to environmental problems. The challenge is thus to find ways of mechanisation that are economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable.
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