Last week, the Federal Government of Nigeria announced that it is working with Brazil to supply and distribute 10,000 tractors to farmers nationwide. The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, disclosed this at the opening of Africa’s Agricultural Machines and Equipment Technology Expo in Abuja.
The minister stated, “The purpose of the expo was also to expose African Farmers to cost-effective farm machines, new farming technologies, to increase foreign direct investments, as well as create business among farm products, producers and processors. It is also a clarion call to bring succour to the drudgery nature of Nigeria’s farm practices to encourage the teeming youths to embrace the agricultural sector. The quest for food self-sufficiency cannot be achieved using the old method of rudimentary tools.”
Abubakar added that the partnership with Brazil would ensure the provision of 10,000 units of tractors, 50,000 units of assorted implements and equipment, 142 turnkey factories for Agro Processing and training of the project beneficiaries for over five years.
This development is essential to expedite agricultural productivity in the country. Several factors like climate change, bursting population, the COVID-19 pandemic and recently the Russian-Ukraine war have shown the need for Africa to urgently attain food autonomy. The only way to achieve this is to improve the mechanization level on the continent, which is quite low.
Africa has the lowest number of tractors per farmer globally. Thus, yields per hectare are low. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Africa has fewer than two tractors per 1,000 hectares of cropland compared with ten tractors per 1,000 hectares in South Asia and Latin America.
The ratio is about ten tractors per 100 hectares in Nigeria compared to 241 tractors per 100 hectares in Indonesia. For Nigeria to achieve food sufficiency through mechanised farming, no fewer than one million tractors are needed. Jehiel Oliver, the founder of Hello Tractor, a tractor-hailing company in Africa, puts the number at more than 750,000 tractors for Nigeria to be on the global average. Regardless of the differences in statistics, it is evident Nigeria is tractor deficient, and there is an urgent need for additional tractors to feed its teeming population.
The short-term impact of these new tractors would reflect in increased agricultural output. When we (Nigeria) begin to grow what we eat and eat what we grow in sufficient quantities, our over-reliance on food importation will dwindle. Last year the Federal Government spent a whopping $1.68bn on food importation from January to September. This is because our local supply can not cater for our local demands. If this amount is diverted and used to fill the mechanization gap in the country, there are chances the country will once again reclaim its glorious agricultural past.
Momentously, the development could attract more foreign investment in the field. Bridging the mechanization gap in the sector is not the sole responsibility of the government. It requires a concerted effort with the private sector. Outside the Brazil-Nigeria partnership, we are seeing this play out with Heifer International’s $4.5 million investment in Hello Tractor to boost tractor financing in Nigeria and other African countries. The new development could cast a brighter spotlight on this sector.