Socio-economic problems with “Farm mechanization”

“Farm mechanization” even though productive, it may cause significant socio-economic problems. Explain.

Farm mechanization means use of machines to perform many activities on farms resulting in reduction of money spent on hiring of labour and time of operation, and increase in productivity. The term mechanization is generally used as an overall description of the application of these inputs. Farm mechanization covers the use of tools, implements and powered machineries as they are the major inputs in agriculture.

Mechanization is one of the factors responsible for urbanization and industrial economics. It also improves production efficiency, encourages large scale production and improves the quality of farm produce. Other key factors that influence successful mechanization include Socio-economic factors, supporting infrastructure, land and agro-ecological conditions, and technical skills and service.

Farm mechanization has been seen as the pivot to agricultural revolution in many parts of the world and has contributed greatly to increased output of food crops and other agricultural products to meet the demands of the ever increasing world population.

A survey was conducted to assess the impact of mechanization on socio-economic conditions of farming communities. The survey was conducted in the selected villages of Midnapore district of West Bengal, representing eastern paddy area and Bhopal district of Madhya Pradesh, representing central wheat and soybean producing areas. The important conclusions drawn, based on the information gathered through survey are as follows: (1) the level of mechanization in eastern rice producing areas was quite low compared to that in the central wheat and soybean producing region, (2) the cropping intensity was fairly high in the regions having increased level of mechanization including tractorization. The productivity of land was also high in those regions, (3) tractorization had a positive effect on the yield level of major crops grown in Bhopal district of Madhya Pradesh, (4) tractorization had beneficial effects on farm labour employment. In fact, the farming households which owned tractors employed more labour per hectare of cultivated area for the two labour-intensive operations, like weeding and harvesting/threshing, than the farming households without tractors, (5) farm mechanization resulted in increased levels of gross income and uplift of social status of both farming and non-farming households in the region. In general, there was an observed increase in their standards of living as indicated by their ownership of houses, utilization of motorized transport vehicles, and properly clothed family members.

One of the effects of mechanisation was to reduce the number of farm jobs available. When this coincided with an economic downturn, such as when haymaking machinery was introduced during the economic depression of the 1880s, the impact on workers was particularly severe.

There has also been a growth in farm size, as labour-saving machines have allowed ‘one-man’ farms to expand. In 1928 most dairy farms were either 55 acres (22 hectares) carrying 20–25 cows, or 100 acres (40 hectares) carrying 39–45 cows. By 2006 the average dairy herd size in New Zealand was 322. In Canterbury it was 648 – the result of large arable farms being converted to dairying.

Increased production

Mechanisation has increased farm production significantly. For example, machines made large-scale land clearance and drainage projects possible, aerial topdressing made steep country productive for the first time, and electric fences allowed farmers to use pasture more efficiently.

Locally manufactured machinery

Farm machinery manufacturing has been a significant industry in countries like New Zealand from the mid-19th century. Early firms – such as P. & D. Duncan, Reid &Gray, and Andrews &Beaven – produced ploughs, harrows, threshing machines, chaff cutters, and seed cleaners.

Reliance on imports

Despite some local manufacturing, mechanisation has tended to increase farming’s dependence on imports. Farm machinery, particularly from the United States, featured strongly in import statistics from the mid-19th century, and local manufacturers generally used metal and parts from overseas. Feed for bullocks and horses was produced locally, as was coal for steam engines, but most oil-based fuel was imported.

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