Assessment of skills needed to foster mechanisation and automation in the agricultural sector

A. Background

The mechanisation and automation of agricultural operations have always been on the agenda in the Mauritian agricultural sector, major reasons being labour shortage and high cost of labour. While mechanisation and/or automation is no cheap alternative either, they remain the most viable option as their benefits outweigh the non-adoption of same. Agricultural mechanization has involved the partial or full replacement of human energy and animal-powered equipment (e.g. plows, seeders and harvesters) by engine-driven equipment. Agricultural automation, often associated with “smart agriculture”, is technology that makes farms more efficient and automates the crop or livestock production cycle. Agricultural mechanisation and automation technology addresses major issues like a rising population, farm labor shortages, and changing consumer preferences. The benefits of mechanising and automating traditional farming processes are multi-faceted.


B. Rationale

Though a number of incentives are provided by the government, in terms of schemes and grants, many operators are still reluctant to adopt mechanisation or automation technology. Previous skills studies and interface platforms have revealed a number of issues pertaining to skills in the agroindustry sector, the main ones being:

  • ageing workforce amplified by youth reluctance to join the sector,
  • atypical nature of jobs (eg jobs related to seasonality, unconventional working hours),
  • lack of specialised or tailor made training, and
  • real potential for integrating technology into a number of agricultural operations which heralds the adoption of mechanisation and or automation.

Hence, this study will attempt to identify those areas where skills development are required in the local agroindustry as well as suggest recommendations for policy formulation for proper and sustainable adoption of mechanisation and automation along the value chain while ensuring minimal skills mismatch.


C. Aim and objectives of the project

The main aim of the study is to identify the areas of skills development needs across the various areas of activities in the Agro-industry sector following an assessment of the current status, as well as the future requirements, of level of mechanisation and automation along the value chain of this sector. Subsequently, specific skill development programmes may be developed to facilitate the process.

The skill development programmes will have to be developed and mounted for existing employees and new entrants respectively. Thus, the specific objectives of the study are to:

  • Take stock of the level of mechanisation and automation in the sub-sectors of the Agro-industry sector;
  • Take stock of the current skill level and how skills are acquired of the workforce in activities where machines and automation are involved;
  • Identify the immediate and future specific skills requirements towards mechanisation and automation;
  • Identify the profile of employees required by employers to implement or use mechanical (non-manual) or automation devices by size of enterprise and type of activity;
  • Propose ways/training programmes to achieve the targeted skills requirements; and
  • Make recommendations to policy makers to devise strategies to reduce the labour mismatch in the different sub-sectors.


D. Methodology

The methodology to be adopted in order to conduct the study takes into consideration the specificities of operators of the local agro-industry where there are still a large number of smallholder farms, often family-based, as well as a number of medium-sized farms involved mostly at the  primary level of farm production and large corporates. Those involved in processing, transformation, transportation and logistics activities will also be considered for the study.

  • Online questionnaire will be addressed to employers identified from the sampling frame. Around 125 enterprises will be targeted.
  • Qualitative data will be collected using focus group discussions as well as one to one in-depth interviews will be carried out with experts from the Industry who have already implemented mechanization/automation projects to supplement the quantitative information collected. Given that smallholder farms are difficult to reach, snowball method will be adopted to capture information on skills requirements.
  • Preliminary findings will be discussed and debated through the Sectoral Committee for Agroindustry. Once validated the report will be published online and recommendations will be disseminated. Some of the recommendations from the study will be taken at sectoral committee level so as to come up with specific tailor-made solutions, in the form of training programmes or HRD schemes.


Time frame

The main survey is expected to start in Mid October 2022 and will last for a duration of around 3 weeks.

The HRDC wishes to thank all respondents participating in the survey as well as the industry associations and stakeholders involved in this national endeavour.








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