Farming mechanization is generally regarded as one of the critical input variables for increasing agricultural productivity and total food production. Most rural communities in the world earn most of their living from agriculture, yet a very low percentage of their land is productively cultivated.
[Developing countries] The estimated fraction of the number of tractors in use in relation to the potential demand in developing countries indicates that a very substantial proportion of this potential demand goes unfilled by locally produced or assembled products or by imports from developed countries. Analysis of trade statistics and other industry data indicate that a major reason for this sort of imbalance is that in real terms, farm machinery exported to or assembled in developing countries, with transnational corporations as a major partner, are almost invariably beyond the means of individual small-scale farmers, both at the point of purchase and at subsequent routine operations of the equipment on the farm.
Equipment operating costs, including energy, spare parts and servicing, contribute additional burdens to the small-scale farmer and further compel a government providing aid to intervene by way of control and subsidy of spare parts, fuel and community repair shops. Again, this has the effect of further limiting the units of equipment that can be deployed in the agricultural sector, while removing the full marketing and servicing responsibility from the manufacturer, to the extent that the host government gets involved in such activities.
The limited availability of modern farm implements prevents any dramatic increase in agricultural production. In many developing countries, where 55-60% of the population is wholly or partly employed in the agricultural sector, total economic development very much depends, inter alia, on the rate at which farming mechanization increases food production, often in the face of rapid population growth. It also renders the terms of trade between the dominant agricultural sector and the fledging industrial sector more economically balanced and equitable.
The widespread use of high level technology for large-scale production in industrialized countries has reduced the feasibility of commercial farming with primitive tools; for example, the use of bullocks for transport and ploughing and home fashioned tools for manual cultivation. Whilst lack of mechanization appears to limit the work potential of the available manpower, often manpower is abundant and not in itself a limiting factor in agricultural productivity. The economic viability of small farms is also threatened by the increasing expense involved in buying and maintaining farm machinery and other necessary outlays. The high cost of farm implements and large machinery, such as tractors and well-boring equipment, compared to the limited financial resources of village families, makes individual ownership prohibitive.