Can big companies’ initiatives to promote mechanization benefit small farms in Africa? a case study from Zambia

After many years of neglect, there is a renewed interest in agricultural mechanization in Africa. Since government initiatives to promote mechanization, e.g., by importing and subsidizing tractors, are confronted with major governance challenges, private-sector initiatives offer a promising alternative. This paper analyzes an initiative of the agricultural machinery manufacturer John Deere and its dealership partner AFGRI to promote smallholder mechanization in Zambia through a contractor model. The analysis focuses on the impact of this initiative on smallholder farmers who receive tractor services and on the demand for hired labor. The analysis is based on a survey of 250 smallholders and focus group discussions using Participatory Impact Diagrams. The results of a Propensity Score Matching (PSM) analysis indicate that farmers who access tractor services for land preparation can almost double their income by cultivating a much larger share of the land that they own.