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Agricultural Mechanizasion as a Solution to Food Insecurity in Africa Essay

Achieving food security in its totality continues to be a challenge for ever increasing population of Africa. A approaches are employed in developing countries but with less success due to a number of factors . this paper examines the causes of food insecurity in African. Scanning through researchers works ,it was noted that over seventy percent of the food insecure population in africa live in the rural areas. The paper therefore recommends that, if the ever increasing population of the african countries is to be fed, then mechanization of all agricultural operations should be embrace.

In conclusion, efforts to words the development of the rural communities in Africa should be increased. Key words: agriculture, mechanization, food security, Africa, rural development. Introduction : Agriculture is the practices of cultivating the soil and raising livestock to produce plant and animals useful to humans and sometimes animals {S. N, Asogwu and O. A Asogwu,2007}, Agriculture is an important occupation in Nigeria with over 7o% of her population depending on it directly for livelihood.

It provides the bulk of employment, income and food for the rapidly growing population as well as supplying raw materials for agro-based industries. World current agricultural production as an average growth rate of 1. 8% as compared to the 3% in the 1960s and therefore at a lesser pace than the demographic growth. The world bank has shown that in sub-saharan Africa (to which Nigeria belongs)the annual food increase needs to reach 4%, i. e. more than double the current figure in order to achieve food security.

She suggested that this can be reached through a significant progress in plant and animal breeding that plays a key role in the development of the agricultural sector as well as a significant impact using appropriate farm mechanization {Pawlat et al , 2002}. Due to number of factors, which include rising population, increasing pressure on land resources, natural and man-made disasters such as drought, desertification, soil erosion and degradation (Raoult-Wack and Bricas, 001), the problem of sustainable agricultural production in Nigeria has assumed greater importance than ever before. Agricultural development involves three approaches namely bio-chemical, socio-economic, and engineering known as the trio of technologies (Mrema and Odigboh, 1993). The bio-chemical approach includes the development of improved animal and plant species, animal and plant nutrients (fertilizer and feed) and plant and animal protection (veterinary drugs, pesticides and herbicides).

The socio-economic approach includes financial packages and management programmes (economic, business management, accounting, sociology, extension services, agricultural machines and equipment (be they human, animal or mechanically powered) for production and post harvest systems handling and storage systems and farm structures, erosion control measures, water resources development as well as irrigation and drainage structures, meteorological systems, and the technologies for optimally utilizing the above and their proper and economic use and management. Ani and Onwuala, 2002; Ampratwum et al, 2004; Onwuala and Pawa, 2004).

Agricultural mechanization implies the use of various power sources and improved farm tools and equipment, with a view to reduce drudgery of the human beings and draught animals, enhance the cropping intensity, precision and timeliness of efficiency of utilization of various crop inputs and reduce the losses at different stages of crop production. The end objective of farm mechanization is to enhance the overall productivity and production with the lowest cost of production.

The contribution of agricultural mechanization has been well recognized in enhancing the production together with irrigation, biological and chemical inputs of high yielding seed varieties, fertilizers, pesticides and mechanical energy. Different researchers have concluded that farm mechanization enhances the production and productivity of different crops due to timeliness of operation, better quality of operations and precision in the application of the inputs.

According to NCAER (1980) survey covering 815 farming households in 85 villages, the increase was 72 percent in the case of sorghum, and 7 percent in the case of cotton as compared to traditional bullock farms. ITES, Madras (1975) found that the productivity increase on tractor owning and hiring farm ranged between 4. 1 and 54. 8 percent. The percent increase was comparatively low on custom hiring farms as compared to tractor-owning farms due to higher level of inputs and better control on timeliness of operations. These productivity increases, thus, were attributed to higher doses of fertilizer, irrigation and mechanization.

Degree of mechanization is the ration of machine or technological work input to total work input (machine plus manual) into agricultural production. The importance of food security to any nation cannot be over emphasized. The issue of food security became prominent in the 1970s and had been given considerable attention since then. The World Food Programme Report in 1979 conceptualized food security, equating it with an “assurance of supplies and a balanced supply-demand situation of staple foods in the international market”.

The report also emphasized that increasing food production in the developing countries is a panacea to food security. The concept of food security proposes that food is available, accessible and affordable, when and where needed in sufficient quantity and that this state of affair will continue and be sustained (Agboola, P. O. , 2002). It is a situation in which sufficient food us available at all times in the right quantity and quality, at affordable process.

To accomplish this, we must have a production system that produces enough food in the short run, sustainable in the long run and does not place undue risks on agricultural producers and must respond rapidly to disruptions in the food supply due to disease epidemics, natural disasters, civil disturbances, environmental imbalances and other cause (Agboola P. O. 2002). With these objectives in mind, various efforts at the international, national and local levels had been put in place at one point in time or another to boost agricultural production to make food available to the teaming population and the ever-increasing world population.

The world population. The world population explosion witnessed as at the end of 1999, further increased the fear of those concerned about world food security. During this period, the global population exceeded 6 billion. Leisinger, (2002), stated that never before in human history had the population of the earth been as great as it is today, and never before had it grown so rapidly within one century. He stated further that the doubling of world population over the past 40years had put enormous pressure on the natural systems that support all life on Earth.

This pressure on natural resources also increased the burden of assuring food security for the entire world’s people international Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI, 2001) stated in one of her reports, that about 73 millions people would be added to world’s population every year between 1995 and 2010 increasing it by 32 percent to reach 7. 5 billion. However, much of this population growth is expected to occur in the developing world. If this prediction is to go by, then the food security situation of the developing world needs constant assessment via empirical research.

Joachim et depal (2004), wrote that these was a strong direct relationship between agricultural productivity, hunger and poverty. He stated further that three quarter of the world’s poor people lived in rural areas and made their living from agriculture. He therefore, concluded that the higher the proportion of the rural population that obtained its benefits from subsistence farming (without the benefit of pro poor technologies and access to markets) the higher the incidence of food insecurity.

Challenges to Food Security in Africa The root cause of food insecurity in developing countries is the inability of people to gain access to food due to poverty. While the rest of the world has made significant progress towards poverty alleviation, Africa, in particular Sub-Saharan Africa, continues to lag behind. Projections show that there will be an increase in this tendency unless preventive measures are taken.

Many factors have contributed to this tendency including the high prevalence of HIV/AID; civil war, strive and poor governance; frequent drought and famine; and agricultural dependency on the climate and environment. Food security on the continent has worsened since 1970 and the proportion of the malnourished population has remained within the 33 and 35 percent range in Sub-Saharan Africa. The prevalence of malnutrition within the continent varies by region. It is lowest in Northern Africa (4 percent) and highest in Central Africa (40 percent)

Over seventy percent of the food insecure population in Africa lives in the rural areas. Figure 1 shows the distribution of food insecurity in Africa. Ironically, smallholder farmers, the producers of over 90 percent of the continent’s food supply, make up the majority (50 percent) of this population. The rest of the food insecure population consists of the landless poor in rural areas (30 percent) and the urban poor. Throughout the developing world, agriculture accounts for around 9 percent of the GDP and more than half of total employment.

In countries where more than 34 percent of the population is undernourished, agriculture represents 30 percent of GDP and nearly 70 percent of population relies on agriculture for their livelihood. This fact has in the past been used in support of the argument as to why developing countries should move away from agriculture and invest in technology. Because over 70 percent of the poor live in rural areas, where also the largest proportion of the food insecure live, it is evident that ;we cannot significantly and sustainably reduce food insecurity without transforming the living conditions in these areas.

The key lies in increasing the agricultural profitability of smallholder farmers and creating rural off-farm employment opportunities. The objective of this paper is to h8ighlight the challenges to food security in Africa while providing alternative solutions to the problem that would not only allow for poverty alleviation but also wealth creation. While the focus of this paper is in alleviating food insecurity in the rural areas, effort has been made to address the plight of the urban poor.

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