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The rapid – but from a low base – uptake of agricultural mechanization in Ethiopia: Patterns, implications and challenges:


  • Berhane, Guush
  • Dereje, Mekdim
  • Minten, Bart
  • Tamru, Seneshaw


The uptake of agricultural mechanization in Ethiopia is low with less than one percent of agricultural plots plowed with a tractor. However, in recent years the uptake of agricultural machinery has accelerated. We note an impressive increase in imports of combine-harvesters and of tractors, seemingly associated with the increasing costs of agricultural labor and animal traction, substitutes for agricultural mechanization. We estimate that a quarter of the area in Ethiopia planted to wheat – the fourth most important cereal in the country – is currently harvested by combine-harvesters, and they are widely used in the major wheat growing zones in the southeast of the country in particular. Private mechanization service providers have rapidly emerged. Smallholders in these wheat growing zones rely heavily on agricultural machinery rental services for plowing, harrowing, or harvesting. We find that mechanization is associated with significantly lower labor use, and that the adoption of combine-harvesters – but not tractors – is significantly associated with higher yields, seemingly due to lower post-harvest losses. While further expansion of mechanization in the country is desired, given the environmental and financial cost of holding oxen and the higher yields linked with some forms of mechanization, it appears to be hampered by farm structures, particularly small farm sizes and consequent limits in scale; fragmented plots; crop diversity; physical constraints, such as presence of stones, steepness of fields, and soil types; and economic and financial constraints, including limited access to foreign exchange and credit and the still relatively low wages in less commercialized zones.

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  • Berhane, Guush & Dereje, Mekdim & Minten, Bart & Tamru, Seneshaw, 2017. "The rapid – but from a low base – uptake of agricultural mechanization in Ethiopia: Patterns, implications and challenges:," ESSP working papers 105, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:fpr:esspwp:105

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Schmidt, Emily & Kedir, Mekamu, 2009. "Urbanization and spatial connectivity in Ethiopia: Urban growth analysis using GIS," ESSP discussion papers 3, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    2. Berhane, Guush & Hirvonen, Kalle & Minten, Bart, 2016. "Synopsis, Agricultural mechanization in Ethiopia: Evidence from the 2015 Feed the Future survey," ESSP research notes 48, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    3. Schmidt, Emily & Bekele, Firew, 2016. "Rural youth and employment in Ethiopia," ESSP working papers 98, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    4. Bachewe, Fantu Nisrane & Berhane, Guush & Minten, Bart & Taffesse, Alemayehu Seyoum, 2016. "Non-farm income and labor markets in rural Ethiopia," ESSP working papers 90, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    5. Chamberlin, Jordan & Schmidt, Emily, 2011. "Ethiopian agriculture: A dynamic geographic perspective," ESSP working papers 17, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    6. Bart Minten & David Stifel & Seneshaw Tamru, 2014. "Structural Transformation of Cereal Markets in Ethiopia," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 50(5), pages 611-629, May.
    7. Bachewe, Fantu Nisrane & Berhane, Guush & Minten, Bart & Taffesse, Alemayehu Seyoum, 2015. "Agricultural growth in Ethiopia (2004-2014): Evidence and drivers:," ESSP working papers 81, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    8. Hailu, Getu & Weersink, Alfons & Minten, Bart, 2018. "Farming practices and productivity," IFPRI book chapters, in: The economics of teff: Exploring Ethiopia’s biggest cash crop, chapter 9, pages 205-235, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    9. Binswanger, Hans, 1986. "Agricultural Mechanization: A Comparative Historical Perspective," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 1(1), pages 27-56, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dillon, Brian & Brummund, Peter & Mwabu, Germano, 2019. "Asymmetric non-separation and rural labor markets," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 78-96.

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    mechanization; agricultural development; smallholders; wheats;

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