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Drawing lessons from Australia, Bangladesh and India, a new ACIAR/AIFSC-funded
project in Africa will help mechanise conservation agriculture and relieve women of
exhausting manual labour.
a new project will evaluate and demonstrate
the best two-wheel tractor (2WT)-based
technology for conservation agriculture
across four african countries. The tractors and
equipment will be selected from australia, asia
it will test commercial systems to deliver 2WTs
to african smallholders.
The mechanisation is expected to benefit
families on more than 35,000 farms, create jobs
and relieve labour drudgery.
BY LInDA VerGnAnI
hile smallholder farmers
in countries such as india
and Bangladesh rely
increasingly on mechanised
two-wheel tractors (2wts), in Africa many
impoverished farmers are caught in a time warp
and still rely solely on human muscle power.
“ when you look at the production means
and when you look at the farm power available,
the difference is really shocking between
Africa and other regions,” says Dr Frédéric
Baudron, cropping system agronomist at the
international Maize and wheat improvement
Center (CiMMYt) in Addis Ababa, ethiopia. “Yet
Africa is meant to compete in a global market.”
while some people have a “very bucolic idea”
of traditional African farming, Dr Baudron says in
reality hand ploughing, weeding and threshing,
and tasks such as pounding grain in wooden
stampers involve backbreaking work.
this drudgery often falls to women or
children, who may be kept out of school to work
in the fields.
in Sub-Saharan Africa most government-run
tractor hire schemes have collapsed and many
draught animals have died from drought or
disease. “Shockingly, the number of tractors in
Sub-Saharan Africa has declined from 235,000
in 1970 to 222,000 in 2000,” Dr Baudron says.
Although African farmers—many of whom
are women or elderly people—still rely on
muscle power, labour is getting scarce and
expensive. this follows the deaths of millions of
able-bodied people in the AiDS pandemic, as
well as increasing migration to the cities.
now Dr Baudron is leading a CiMMYt
project that aims to promote rapid adoption of
2wt technology for conservation agriculture
(CA) in eastern and southern Africa.
“Our entry point is to mechanise
conservation agriculture,” Dr Baudron says.
“ we also want to look at other tasks we should
mechanise as a priority so that we can release
some of this labour for more productive, more
the four-year project will identify and
demonstrate the best imported and local
2wt-driven technology for CA in eight sites in
tanzania, Kenya, ethiopia and Zimbabwe.
Among the goals of the Farm mechanization
and conservation agriculture for sustainable
intensification (FACASi) project is to test
commercial models for delivering 2wt
technology to African smallholders. it received
A$3.9 million of funding from the new
Australian international Food Security Centre
(AiFSC) within ACiAr.
More than 35,000 farms will benefit from
the project, according to a report on FACASi
by Dr Baudron and Dr Bruno Gérard, director of
the Global Conservation Agricultural Program
of CiMMY t.
Smallholder farmers using 2wt-based CA are
expected to increase their incomes by 50% and
those adopting the equipment for transport,
threshing and shelling to increase their incomes
the project will also create jobs for about
360 rural service providers, who are likely
to double their incomes. By the end of the
project, the cumulative value of adopting 2wt
technology will translate into an A$18.5 million
the mechanisation project will focus on
communities already involved in CA through
SiMLeSA (Sustainable intensification of maize-
legume cropping systems for food security
in eastern and southern Africa) or ZimCLiFS
(integrating crops and livestock for improved
security and livelihoods in rural Zimbabwe).
Local importers, tractor manufacturers
and dealers will be trained in 2wt-based CA,
including machine maintenance, agronomy and
project to promote
in eastern and
southern Africa will
winter 2013 PArtnerS
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