Adoption of sustainable agricultural mechanisation no doubt remains one of the strongest pillars to which Nigeria can use to advance it quest to ensuring food security.
Unfortunately the country is no where to be found among global agricultural mechanisation-based economy like Brazil, India and Vietnam as farmers in this part of the world still struggle with traditional implements such as cutlass, animal traction, hoe and rely heavily on manual labour to produce food.
With its population expanding above 250 millions people, majority of its farmers approximated to about 70 per cent are smallholders with low access to subsidised inputs to grow desirable amount of food and in reality these farmers are often too poor to afford modern tools such as tractors and plows for their farming.
Already existing challenges such as, insecurity, climate change, lack of access to credit and government support continue to take a toll on food production in Nigeria. Mechanisation is considered as a crucial input for agricultural crop production and one that historically has been neglected in the context of developing countries especially in Africa and Nigeria.
Similarly, the current figure of nearly 25 million Nigerians who are at risk of facing hunger in 2023 is a enough to dare Nigeria into urgent action to improve food production using agricultural mechanisation.
In terms of benefits , mechanisation can increase land productivity, reduce labour shortages, decrease the environmental footprint of agriculture and increase farmers income in great percentage.
Sadly Nigeria has one of the lowest levels of mechanisation in sub-Saharan Africa and According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the country only has 0.27 tractors per 1,000 hectares of cropland, compared to 2.7 in Ghana and 4.7 in South Africa. The majority of Nigerian farmers still rely on manual labor and animal power for land preparation, planting, weeding and harvesting. This limits the amount of land that can be cultivated, the quality and timeliness of operations and the potential for crop diversification and intensification.
The low level of mechanisation in Nigeria is attributed to several factors, such as the high cost and scarcity of machinery and spare parts, lack of access to credit and extension services, the poor infrastructure and maintenance facilities, weak policy and institutional support and the socio-cultural barriers that affect women and youth participation in mechanisation.
To overcome these challenges, it’s advisable that Nigeria develop and implement a comprehensive and coherent strategy for sustainable agricultural mechanisation that addresses the needs and preferences of different categories of farmers, especially smallholders, women and youth.
Such a strategy according to experts should include; promoting the availability and affordability of appropriate machinery and equipment that suit the local agro-ecological and socio-economic conditions. Also enhancing the capacity and skills of farmers, service providers, technicians and entrepreneurs to operate, maintain and manage mechanised equipment is paramount.
Improving the access to finance, markets, information and innovation for mechanised farming and strengthening the policy and institutional framework that supports mechanisation development and coordination among different stakeholders are other ways Nigeria can scale through in using mechanisation to achieve food security.
While doing the above, Nigeria should also remember to encourage the adoption of conservation agriculture practices that reduce soil degradation and greenhouse gas emissions from mechanised operations and equally fostering the participation and empowerment of women and youth in mechanisation decision-making and implementation.
In essence, sustainable agricultural mechanisation can play a vital role in enhancing food security, reducing poverty and improving livelihoods in Nigeria. It can even contribute to the development of value chains and food systems that are more efficient, effective and environmentally friendly.
However, mechanisation should not be seen as an end in itself, but as a means to achieve these goals. Therefore, it should be integrated with other complementary interventions that address the underlying causes of food insecurity, such as conflict resolution, climate change adaptation, social protection and governance reform.
Federal Government’s Efforts
In a move to address the tractor deficit gap, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with John Deere, an Agricultural Machinery Company, to establish a tractor plant in Nigeria.
Minister of agriculture and food security Abubakar Kyari who signed the MoU with the vice president of John Deere, Jason Braintley in Abuja said that the strategic partnership aims to enhance mechanized farming to boost food production, food and nutrition security, job creation and others.
According to the minister, the initiative was a follow-up to the meeting between Nigeria’s Vice President Ibrahim Shettima and top officials of John Deere at the recent World Food Prize Foundation held in lowa, USA.
He said that John Deere was a leading development manufacturing of Agricultural Machinery and had the experience and record to train artisans on how to operate the machinery.
He assured that the government would provide the enabling environment to make the tractors affordable at low-interest rate to Nigerian farmers and boost all-year round farming.