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SocietyEthiopia should not rush to mechanize, Sasakawa Chief

Ethiopia should not rush to mechanize, Sasakawa Chief

Calling in three decades of service at the Sasakawa Africa Association (a Japanese NGO which mainstreams food production, health and education among others), Masaaki Miyamoto, Senior Executive Officer (CEO) of Sasakawa Africa, said that despite the gains in the agricultural sector, Ethiopia needs to slow down the introduction of mechanized farming for the smallholder farmers due to the nature of the land tenure systems and dispersed settlement styles across the country and the continent alike.

On his final days in office, Miyamoto was in Addis Ababa this week and said in an exclusive interview with The Reporter that mechanization is not something that any Africa country should rush into before learning that it fits its land tenure system and the settlement style of its people. Asked whether smallholder farming works for Ethiopia Miyamoto argued, collective mechanization is an American style of farming which may not necessarily be applicable in Ethiopia.

Back in 2011, Jimmy Carter, former president of the US, is remembered for advising African heads of state to device a method that works best for the smallholder farming communities in their countries. Carter opposed the idea of large scale commercial farming where many foreign investors rush to get hold of chunk of fertile farmlands, contributing very little to food self-sufficiency efforts in many parts of Africa. Carter is for small-scale mechanization and basing the modernization efforts on the small scale farmers.

Noting the underlying challenges in Africa that relates to land use and ownership, ethnic and tribal values associated with accessing farmlands, Miyamoto argued that small-scale mechanization is something Ethiopia needs not to rush into. Acknowledging the efforts of the government for laboring to set up agro-processing parks in Ethiopia, Miyamoto says that the fruit of such endeavors is to be expected in the long run. The government of Ethiopia is poised to set up 15 agro-parks in Ethiopia and since last year, the construction of three parks has been commencing.

In 31 years of operations in Africa, Sasakawa Africa also known as Sasakawa Global 2000 Africa, has remained as one of the well-received international NGOs in the continent. Considering himself to be the living witness of many of the changes in the agriculture sector in Africa, Miyamoto applauds Ethiopia for a long journey. The immediate cause of the coming of Sasakawa Africa by its founder Yohei Sasakawa was the incident of the 1984 great famine in Ethiopia.

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Yohei Sasakawa whom many refer to as a successful businessman, social entrepreneur and a philanthropist, came to Ethiopia to provide food and medical assistances during the famine years. Until recently, his NGO has been working across 15 countries. Lately, the operations of Sasakawa Africa limited its existence only in four countries including Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mali and Uganda. 

Taking Ethiopia as a role model for many countries of the continent, the NGO is set to stay longer, Miyamoto said. In three decades of its operations Sasakawa Africa has spent USD 250 million, much of the focus was directed towards non-financial aid activities.

Currently, Sasakawa Africa operates with five thematic areas which seek to improve crop productivity, post-harvest and agro-processing, public private partnership and market access, human resource development and, monitoring, evaluation aspects.

By Birhanu Fikade

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