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Rural mechanization for equitable development: disarray, disjuncture and disruption

Lewis, David ORCID: 0000-0003-0732-9020, Biggs, Stephen and Justice, Scott (2021) Rural mechanization for equitable development: disarray, disjuncture and disruption. Development Policy Review. ISSN 0950-6764

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Identification Number: 10.1111/dpr.12612


Motivation - Agricultural mechanization was once a mainstream issue. From the 1990s onwards it received less priority, as public policy concern for equitable economic development in rural areas faded. Despite recent signs of renewed interest, questions of rural mechanization require more systematic attention. After a long period of neglect, our knowledge is in disarray. Purpose - This paper traces the evolution of thinking about rural mechanization. It examines how three increasingly important factors affect or potentially affect mechanization: (a) expansion of capital goods markets, (b) evolving urban-rural linkages, (c) climate crisis. Approach - The paper reviews the literature that documents longstanding debates, and that which records changes in the rural areas of the global south in the 2010s. Findings - Public policy for rural mechanization was often seen in the 1960s as central to rural development. When neo-liberal economics rose in the 1980s, it was thought issues of mechanization could be left to the suppliers and customers in the market. In the meantime, and especially in Asia, many rural operations have been mechanized, but these changes have attracted relatively little attention from either researchers or policy-makers. In the 2010s, the pattern of mechanization has been influenced by changes in the production of machinery and the way that suppliers try to sway policy-makers towards favouring their products; by changes in the relations between urban and rural areas, including the emergence of rural labour shortage and the availability of remittances for capital investment; and by the challenges posed to farmers by global heating and the climate crisis. Each of these trends is potentially disruptive, risking disjuncture between our understandings of the changing realities of ‘real world’ rural livelihoods and wider political economy on the one hand, and the need to ensure the relevance of research agendas to policy priorities on the other. Policy implications – Policy makers need to embrace a more holistic view of mechanization based on evidence from multidisciplinary research. Policy needs rebalancing to enable a more integrated view of national economies; a greater recognition of the realities of mechanization for smaller farmers and small to medium entrepreneurs; and improved data collection, including experimenting with public-private partnerships for data collection.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 John Wiley and Sons
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Date Deposited: 01 Dec 2021 12:09
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2022 11:30

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