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Abstract

Malawi’s agricultural economy comprises of the smallholder subsector on communal land, and the leasehold and freehold estate subsectors. Large farms and estates use modern inputs more frequently, than the smallholder farmers. Jayne (2016) reported the ratio of cultivated land area to total land holding size declines as farm size increases. This paper highlights farm mechanization and the potential for role of robots in Malawi. We provide a global overview of the situation in Africa and in Malawi. We also highlight the potential role of robotics. Farm mechanization often follows various stages, starting from the use of mechanical power for power-intensive operations that require little control to increased use of mechanically powered technologies, and finally to automation of production. Past state-led mechanization in Africa often failed due to insufficient understanding of the nature of demand for mechanization technologies among farmers and insufficient knowledge of private-sector functions. There are dedicated mechanization committees and departments as well as a decentralized approach to mechanization and a clear commitment to mechanization along the value chain in Malawi. While the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development (MoAIWD) is responsible for maintaining Government-owned facilities with tractor and draught animals for hire, the private sector is expected to lead this intervention area. Malawi is not on track for meeting the Malabo Commitment area number 3.1. This relates to access to agriculture inputs and technologies. However, according to the selection methodology the country is part of a cluster of countries indicating rapid mechanization rates. Malawi has had an average annual machinery growth rate of 2.7% and a high agricultural output growth of over 6%. Malawi has made strides to introduce automated farming such as use of central pivot system of irrigation. However, information on how this is performing is rather limited.

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