Farm mechanisation is the application of engineering principles and technology in agricultural production, storage and processing on the farm.
Farm mechanisation is applicable to land preparation, planting, fertilizer application, weeding and crop harvesting, rearing, caring and feeding of animals as well as processing and storage of farm produce, using appropriate farm machinery.
PROBLEMS OF AGRICULTURAL MECHANISATION
- Land tenure system: The type of land tenure system (communual) does not allow for large farm holdings suitable for mechanisation.
- Scattered farm holdings: Scattered farm holdings are also not conducive or economical for mechanisation, especially in West Africa.
- Poverty of farmers: Most farmers, especially in West Africa are very poor and cannot afford the cost of tractors and farm implements.
- Inadequate facilities (machinery): The facilities or machinery for fabricating and repairing farm implements are grossly insufficient where they are available.
- Bad topography: The topography of most West African landscape is too rough and unconducive for farm mechanisation.
- Varied soil types: Soil types are extremely varied and the machines use on them have not been developed locally. West African countries, Nigeria for instance, still depend on imported machinery which is not too suitable for our soil.
- Inadequate spare parts: Availability of spare parts is a major problem as these parts are still being imported.
- Inadequate technical manpower: Available technical manpower to operate or service the implements and machines is not adequate.
- Problems of stumps and logs: During clearing, heavy stumps and logs are usually left behind, and they constitute additional problems in mechanisation.
ADVANTAGES OF AGRICULTURAL MECHANISATION
Farm mechanisation has the following advantages:
- Timeliness of operation: Farm mechanisation ensures that all farm operations are done and completed within a short period of time.
- It saves labour: In farm mechanisation, most human efforts are substituted with machines. Hence, labour saved could be employed elsewhere.
- It reduces health hazards: Farm mechanisation reduces health hazards. These include those posed by knives, hoe, stumps, pest, etc.
- It reduces drudgery: Farm mechanisation makes it easy to avoid unpleasant manual jobs.
- Increase in farm revenue: As a result of mechanisation, farmers become richer due to high yield.
- It encourages large scale farming: Farmers are capable of working on large farms and, hence, reap heavy harvest.
- Increase in output: Mechanisation makes it possible for farmers to have increase in output (production, harvest or yield).
- It promotes specialisation of labour: Farm mechanisation enables people to become specialised in certain operations within the farm.
- Co-operation among farmers: Mechanisation enables many farmers to come together and pool their resources together, thereby promoting or encouraging cooperation among farmers.
- It saves time: Mechanisation translates quickly the products of man’s brain into reality.
- Reduction in cost of operation: Mechanisation leads to reduction in the cost of agricultural operations per unit output.
- Improvement in quality of produce: F a r m mechanisation usually improves the quality of some farm produce, e.g ., rice processing.
- Availability of labour for other sectors: Mechanisation also helps to release labour to other sectors of the economy.
- Use of less human labour: Mechanisation helps to accomplish lots of work with less human labour.
DISADVANTAGES OF AGRICULTURAL MECHANISATION
Farm mechanisation has the following disadvantages:
- High cost: Farm mechanisation, due to the numerous machines involved, is usually expensive to operate.
- Displacement of workers: In farm mechanisation, very few workers are required; hence, many people will be out of job when mechanisation is introduced.
- Compaction of soil: Mechanisation leads to compaction of soil due to the movement of heavy machines.
- It causes environmental pollution: Mechanisation causes environmental pollution due to smokes emanating from machines, chemicals and fertilizer usage.
- Degradation of landscape: Mechanisation ensures the degradation of landscape as a result of continuous excarvation.
- Land tenure system: Land tenure system may hinder efficient use of tractors due to small holdings of farmlands.
- Destruction of soil structure: The soil structure can easily be destroyed due to continuous movements and usage of machines.
- Redundancy of farm labour: With farm machines working on the farm, the work can easily be completed and this situation can create redundancy in farm labour.
- Few crops can be mechanised: Very few crops like maize, rice, guinea corn, millet, etc. can easily be mechanised.
- Inadequate technical know-how: There is always inadequate technical know-how on the use and handling of the farm machines and equipment.
- Damage to crops: Most crops are usually damaged during mechanised farm operations, especially if care is not taken.
- Inadequate spare parts: Most spare parts or replaceable parts are not always available. Therefore they may be scarce or inadequate.
- High cost of maintenance: There is usually high cost of maintenance involved, especially for heavy machines.
- Spread of pests and diseases: Mechanisation helps to spread pests and diseases through contaminated machineries.
- Human control: Mechanisation needs human labour to control it.
- Unstable fuel supply: Unstable supply of fuel can affect the working of machines.
LIMITATIONS OF FARM MECHANISATION
Factors limiting agricultural mechanisation in Nigeria can be discussed under the following major headings:
a) Economic Limitation
- Machines are not readily available in the country.
- Most farmers are poor and cannot afford them.
- Cost of hiring the machines is high/exorbitant.
- Cost of maintenance is high.
- Operators of machines demand high pay/wages which most farmers cannot afford.
b) Technical Limitation
- There is lack of technical know-how of the machines.
- Experts on these machines are not readily available.
- Mode of operations of most machines are not known.
- Most of the machines are not adapted to our local environment/needs.
- Very few schools exist for the training of machine operators.
c) Lack of Maintenance
- Most machines are imported.
- Replacement parts are not available.
- Inadequate trained personnel to repair farm machines.
- Facilities for repair and maintenance are lacking.
- The very few trained personnel are not always available when machines break down.
d) Small Farm Holdings
- Land tenure systems encourage fragmentation of land which cannot be mechanised.
- Fragmentation of land discourages mechanisation.
- Agriculture is practised by peasant farmers.
- Peasant farmers have small area of farmland.
REASONS WHY AGRICULTURE HAS NOT BEEN FULLY MECHANIZED IN WEST AFRICA
- Small farm holding or land fragmentation or land tenure system does not permit mechanisation.
- The farming systems currently practised do not encourage mechanisation.
- There are no access roads for machines.
- It is costly or expensive to hire machines and most farmers are poor.
- High running costs for machinery discourages mechanization.
- Heavy tree stumps left after land clearing hinder use of machinery.
- Machines or implements are expensive to purchase.
- Machines are costly to maintain.
- Inadequate capital or credit facilities.
- Machine spare parts are not easily available.
- There is low level of technical know-how about machinery.
- There is inadequate extension services or education for farmers.
- Unfavourable soil terrain or topography prevents mechanization.
- There is inadequate farm labourers or farm hands to enhance mechanization.
- Poor market structures or system for agricultural produce discourage farmers from large scale production.
POSSIBLE WAYS OF IMPROVING AGRICULTURE THROUGH MECHANISATION
- Farmers should be educated to accept modern systems of farming, especially in the areas of mechanisation.
- Government should provide loans to enable farmers to purchase farm machines.
- The land tenure system should be reviewed to enable farmers to acquire large hectares of land.
- Simple and less expensive machines should be developed.
- Farmers should form co-operative societies to enable them to pool their resources together to buy farm machines.
- Governments should establish agricultural engineering schools or institutions to train personnel, and fabricate simple machines.