Mechanisation and Peasant Agriculture

  • Eric Clayton


The uncertainty and marked seasonality of most tropical climates makes the use of hand labour for farm operations especially constraining. The hand labour economies of peasant agriculture are generally faced by ‘acute labour bottlenecks’ when the labour demands of seed-bed preparations, planting, weeding and often harvesting, can exceed the labour availability of the farm family. The need to ‘break these labour bottlenecks’ has encouraged the substitution of hand labour by animal and mechanical power to facilitate and speed up the performance of vital farm tasks. In many parts of the developing world, the use of mechanical farm power in smallholder agriculture has taken the form of the four-wheel tractor, being primarily used for cultivation and preparation of seed-beds. Although the decision to mechanise some farm operations can be taken on several grounds — economic, social, technical and political — the decision of the individual small farmer will generally be based on an economic criterion. In this case, a decision to mechanise will imply that the financial benefits of mechanisation will exceed the costs arising from it.


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Notes and References

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© Eric Clayton 1983

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  • Eric Clayton

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