APFSD side event on ‘Empowering Smallholders through Agricultural Mechanization in the Digital Era’
Smallholders are a fundamental actor in the agriculture sector of the Asia-Pacific region. About 90 per cent of the world’s small farms are in this region while the average size of land holdings in Asia is only about 1 ha. In many countries, these small holdings are also fragmented in smaller plots in different locations, with limited access to relatively large farm machines. Furthermore, most smallholders usually do not have investment capacity to adopt mechanization technologies, equipment and practices. Renting equipment for hire stands as one of the best choices to face the increasing shortage of labor and ensure adequate crop yields.
As income from growing staple crops is very limited, smallholder farmers are diversifying into labor intensive, but more profitable activities like production of fruits and vegetables, fish and livestock: which are perishable produce that makes the farmers more vulnerable to market trends, climate related hazards and needs for investing in adequate equipment.
These limitations are clearly an obstacle to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, but emerging information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled sustainable agricultural mechanization solutions can play a key role to overcome some of these limitations. New technologies such as self-driving tractors, precision input application, agricultural drones, and mobile applications for hiring machinery have shown the potential to transform the agricultural mechanization sector into an agent for change, making machinery more available, precise and efficient, and providing means to respond to a larger scope of issues that are hampering agricultural production nowadays.