Mechanization and skills development for productivity growth, employment and value addition: Insights from Mali

2020 | A.O. Kergna | A. Nientao | B. Ongoiba | M. Sidibe

Published as FARA Research Report Volume 5 No: 19 (2020).

Download the report here.


African farm systems are the least mechanized of all continents (Sheahan & Barrett, 2018). This is a concern, since low levels of mechanization are associated with low levels of labor productivity, a key determinant of farmers’ incomes (Fuglie & Rada, 2013). However, with the re-emergence of agriculture on Africa’s development agenda, there is now renewed interest in agricultural mechanization (FAO, 2016; Kirui and von Braun, 2018; Malabo Montpellier Panel, 2018). Governments aim to overcome “hoe and cutlass” type of farming to making agriculture attractive to the youth (Birner and Mockshell, 2015), donors are increasingly fundind mechanization-related projects and machinery companies have discovered Africa as an emerging market (Daum & Birner, 2017; FAO 2016; Oluwole and Odogola, 2018).
The renewed interest in agricultural mechanization has been fueled by increasing evidence that access to labor limits development for many smallholder farmers (Baudron et al., 2019; Diao et al., 2014; Nin-Pratt & McBride, 2014). Indeed, studies suggest that once farms are mechanized, farmers would benefit greatly from agriculture, for example, by being able to increase their farm incomes (Adu-Baffour et al., 2019; Kirui, 2019). But there are still unanswered questions by scholars regarding African agricultural mechanization. This leaves policymakers and practitioners ill-equipped to design good policies and programs. These questions include: What are the best options for the mechanization of smallholder production and processing systems from economic and institutional perspectives? What are the roles of the private sector and the state? What knowledge and skills are needed to promote mechanization? What are the effects of mechanization on rural employment?
To answer these questions, and thereby scientifically assist in the recent mechanization efforts, the Program of Accompanying Research for Agricultural Innovation (PARI) identified “mechanization and skill development for productivity growth, employment and value addition” as one of its top priorities. PARI is led by the Center of Development Research (ZEF) and funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development as part of its One world, No Hunger Initiative (SEWOH). PARI’s research cluster on mechanization is led by the University of Hohenheim, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and ZEF and jointly implemented with the Institut National des Recherches Agricoles du Bénin (INRAB), Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), and Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER).