Gasoline powered simple weeders adapted for weeding in cassava farms hold promise and may take off the burden of weeding faced by small-scale farmers in Africa.
Initially acquired as tillers, these simple tools are being modified and adapted as weeders by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) led Cassava Weed Management Project. Last year, the machines were being tested on farmers’ fields across 58 sites in Nigeria. Following this progress, a team of Nigerian engineers and fabricators are also working on a local version with materials sourced locally for its construction.
Demonstrating the machines during a field trip organised by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), 25-26 October 2016, in Abeokuta; the Project Leader, IITA-Cassava Weed Management Project, Dr Alfred Dixon said the adoption of the machines would help smallholder farmers come out of poverty, and it would create jobs for youths in rural communities.
The meeting in Abeokuta was aimed at reviewing the progress, exploring opportunities, and discussing options for interventions to increase Nigerian cassava farmers’ access to mechanization services in a sustainable manner.
During the field trip, participants assessed what weed control options are available for cassava farmers in particular, and most importantly, to what extent the AATF led Cassava Mechanisation and Agroprocessing Project (CAMAP) has impacted on the lives of rural farmers.
A joint resolution by participants endorsed mechanisation in cassava as the way to go to help resource-poor farmers especially women and youths out of poverty.
Dr Emmanuel Okogbenin, AATF Director of Technical Operations while presenting the communiqué of the meeting noted that mechanisation such as the simple motorised weeders could create a big impact at farm level, considering that majority of African farmers operate on small scale.
Based on CAMAP’s experience, tractors and other bigger machinery are also critical for mechanisation where smallholder farmers could be mobilised into clusters.
Participants unanimously agreed that the CAMAP approach to mechanisation deserve support from donors and governments so the initiative could be taken to scale.
There was also the consensus that future intervention in mechanisation in Nigeria should capitalise on and align efforts with ongoing government initiatives such as the Agriculture Equipment Hiring Enterprises.
Other entry points identified were individual tractor owners, associations of tractor owners, large farms that service neighbors, and state and local governments that own tractors.