Green revolution has failed in Africa. Luckily, History of the first, second, and third agricultural revolutions explains it all.

Is the Green Revolution movement a hit or miss in Africa?

Green revolution has failed to achieve results in Africa. Luckily, history teaches us that, through the first, second and third agricultural revolutions, mechanization is an imperative precedent for green revolution.

Do you want to understand why Africa is a net importer of row crops - such as maize, wheat, rice, soy etc?  This far, most of the problems that ail Africa’s agriculture are pretty well known. Anyone in the field can highlight them easily starting with low use of inputs like fertilizer and pesticides, low mechanization, climate change, small enclosed land, unsuitable land tenure systems, to the misconception that farming is only for subsistence, etc. Now that we have identified these problems, we need to go on to the next step - PRIORITIZATION

So, before I reveal my thoughts, I would like you to answer the following questions:

  • Can you effectively apply fertilizer or pesticides on a 50 Ha piece of land without mechanization? 
  • Can you effectively harvest wheat manually from a 5 Ha piece of land?

I am not sure of your answer, but I guess that there is no way to do the above activities with EFFICIENCY.

I am very glad today that I work in the agricultural mechanization industry, however, i wish to clarify here that my suggestions are not biased by the passion I have for my work, but are based on a logical root-cause assessment.

Among the problems identified above, I strongly believe that mechanization should be solved first. Why? Mechanization has two key benefits:

  1. It improves labor productivity and efficiency: One person with a machine can do what 500 people can do in a day. Machines liberate people from drudgery, hence making them more creative, happier, and productive.
  2. It improves farm productivity: Some things can only be done using machines especially at large scale. Machines also increase farm productivity by enhancing the efficiency of farm activities like input applications, harvesting, etc.

The above two benefits are unique to mechanization. 

The first, second, and third agricultural revolutions can explain why the green revolution has failed in Africa

Let me support my argument by taking you back to the history of world's agricultural revolutions. 

The first agricultural revolution  was marked by the transformation of human societies from hunting & gathering to farming. The second  agricultural revolution which started in the UK was made possible courtesy of mechanization. The third agricultural revolution (also called green revolution) which we are in today, consists of adoption of practices such as improved seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, and other new technologies to increase farm productivity.

Africa has perfectly achieved the first revolution. However, I see a lot of effort today being directed towards 3rd revolution without paying attention to the second revolution, which is a big mistake. Take it from me. For the green revolution to come true in Africa, we must achieve the second agricultural revolution first – which consists of mechanizing farms.

This is the sequence that our agricultural revolution  have to go through. History is there to help us, Africans.

To the proponents of the green revolution, please explain to us - why does Kenya import 90% of the wheat consumed in the country?  The same case applies to  many African countries. Put in mind that achieving high wheat productivity is the lowest hanging fruit in the green revolution “theory”.

In my view, high levels of wheat production are only possible with mechanization – that’s why Africa imports wheat - because there is absence of mechanization. 

We might not be very certain on how to implement a successful mechanization strategy in our African countries given the facts that agricultural machines are expensive, farmers are very poor, farms are too small, governments offer zero subsidies to agricultural mechanization, some communities believe that farming is a manual activity and hence mechanization is not welcome…etc.  

But what I just want from you, readers, is the adoption of my idea that mechanization is a top priority challenge that should be addressed urgently through concerted efforts by the governments, development partners as well as the private sector. If we agree on that, then we can bring our minds together to design the “HOW”.

Are we together?

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