You are here

Mechanization in Asia and Africa

This study uses long-term panel household data from three Asian countries (China, Nepal and Vietnam), as well as recently collected data sets from three African countries (Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya), to explore the agricultural mechanization process and its associated factors and constraints. The aim is to shed light and provide policy suggestions on the mechanization process in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), based on what we learn from the process in Asia and the current situation in SSA.


Machinery adoption in Asian agriculture is quite high when compared to the low mechanization rate in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), particularly among smallholders. However, in the past decade, SSA has been enjoying economic growth, especially in the non-agricultural sectors. Nonetheless, in many parts of SSA poverty is still high in rural areas. Thus, mechanization has a great potential to alleviate poverty by improving productivity.

Researchers and policymakers have focused less on mechanization than on the use of fertilizer and hybrid seeds. Different studies have shown that a low demand for agricultural output and low labor costs are the main reasons for the limited use of machinery in SSA. However, these studies did not include household data which might provide an insight into the heterogeneity of household and community constraints in machinery adoption. Thus, empirical studies are needed to understand how these constraints can be linked to the mechanization process.

The purpose of this study is to provide policy suggestions on the mechanization process in SSA based on the findings of household data from Asian countries. The objectives are multiple: to document emerging mechanization patterns; to document the evolution of the mechanization process over past decades; to identify the factors affecting a household’s adoption of machine power; and to provide policy suggestions to SSA on how to promote mechanization.

A long-term panel of household data from three Asian countries, China, Nepal and Vietnam, will be used to explore the mechanization process and its determining factors and constraints. To make sure that the study is relevant, the focus will be on the early stage of mechanization.

To understand the current mechanization processes in SSA, three case studies will be conducted in Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanzania. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has already started research on agricultural mechanization in Ghana and Nigeria and collected the relevant data from private sector custom hiring services and providers of tractors, as well as tractor users. For Tanzania, which has a relatively high rate of mechanization by SSA standards, panel data from the Living Standards Measurement Study – Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) will be used to examine the demands of mechanization and animal tractions.

 The following research questions will be explored in the study:

1. What are the emerging mechanization patterns in the six case study countries?

2. How has the mechanization process developed over past decades in the six case study countries?

3. What are the key factors associated with households’ adoption of machine power in the three Asian countries?

A case study from each of the six countries will be conducted. To reach different audiences, the research results will be published in the forms of project notes, blog posts, reports, working papers, IFPRI discussion papers, and journal articles. The findings will also be presented at relevant regional and international meetings.

Further information