Small scale farmers in Nigeria face major challenges with accessing mechanisation services. The majority of smallholder farmers cannot afford mechanised tools and as a result a significant proportion of the country’s farming area is cultivated by hand. Farmers are limited on farm area expansion, and constrained on performing timely farm operations and achieving maximum potential in food production because of their inaccessibility to mechanisation. Women are also often locked out of parts of the agriculture sector as result of the hard labour requirements involved in planting.

To diminish these challenges, Propcom Mai-karfi (PM) is promoting the use of power tillers for land preparation; a significantly labour intensive aspect of farming. A power tiller is a machine with rotating blades which loosens the soil in preparation for planting. Tillers also have attachments for other aspects of farm management like weeding. Women face higher barriers (such as access to finance and collateral in the form of farm lands) in accessing tractors from government run tractor hire programmes and from tractor service providers (TSPs), and are less likely to have the funds to purchase a tractor. As a result PM has targeted rural smallholder women in northern Nigeria with this intervention. Tillers are ideal for mechanising small farm holdings, and makes land preparation much easier, faster and less strenuous compared to manual means. Tillers are also used for weeding, the cost of purchase and maintaining a tiller is additionally lower than a tractor’s, and is easier to operate.

PM’s tillers intervention has been anchored on a financing framework which enables smallholder women farmers to purchase tillers from an agreed equipment supplier. In the pilot programme, PM linked a national women farmers’ network – Small-scale Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria (SWOFON) to a tiller vendor – Habgito for the purchase of power tillers. The financing agreement was a 20% deposit from the women for the delivery of the tillers, and an 80% payment plan spread over 12 months and guaranteed by the Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk-Sharing System for Agricultural Lending NIRSAL for up to 75%. Each tiller costs the participating co-operative group approximately N195,500.

In May 2015, 100 women farmers’ co-operatives under SWOFON from Plateau, Kogi, Benue, Nassarawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Kano, Kaduna and Delta states made an initial 20% deposit for 100 tillers. The women were trained by Habgito on how to operate their new tillers and have since used them on their farms. Some co-operatives have also commenced providing tiller services to other farmers in their communities and are earning additional income. Each tiller is estimated to serve at least a 100 smallholder farmers in one year. They also save each farmer who uses the equipment for land preparation about N16,000/hectare in labour costs over a one year period.