Kansas State University


Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification

Category: ASMC

Solar-Powered Multipurpose Traction Unit

The SIIL-funded Appropriate Scale Mechanization Consortium (ASMC), and their Michigan State University (MSU) project, has developed a new traction unit specifically designed to address the needs of the smallholder farmer in sub-Saharan Africa. The ASMC researchers, led by co-PI Dr. Ajit Srivastava, came up with this solar-powered, scale-appropriate, sustainable, and multifunctional machine, to aid smallholder farmers with many of their daily tasks— these include threshing, planting, irrigation, milling and weed control. 70% of the farmers targeted by this technology still use manual labor to perform these tasks, with only 10% using any kind of mechanization. The final 20% use animal labor, a method of farm labor is not without its own costs and issues. By using this machine, farmers in the ASMC target-countries can increase and intensify their production, while reducing costs and human drudgery.

Check out the great video that the ASMC-MSU produced to showcase the machine. It features this exciting and innovative technology, explaining in more detail the solar-powered traction unit’s specifications and uses, along with a demonstration of its functions. We are excited to promote the new ways our funded projects are able to extend sustainable intensification around the world!

Gender Sensitivity Training in Burkina Faso

Gender sensitivity training in Burkina Faso
The ADM Institute is a funding partner for the Appropriate Scale Mechanization Consortium, a subaward of the USAID-funded Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab (SIIL) based at Kansas State University.Maria Jones recently joined the USAID-funded Appropriate Scale Mechanization Consortium (ASMC) team from INGENEAES. The Feed the Future project Integrating Gender and Nutrition within Agricultural Extension Services (INGENAES) is also housed in the College of ACES within the AgReach program at the University of Illinois.

In June, Tim Rendall, ASMC project manager, and Jones traveled to Burkina Faso to meet with the in-country team and work with a team of faculty and students to conduct a gender analysis of the ASMC’s planter technology. In addition, Jones and Rendall trained in-country staff on gender integration, using a participatory training approach developed by INGENAES known as the Introductory Gender in Agricultural Activities training.

Using adult learning principles such as role-playing, small group drawing, and demonstrations, the one-day workshop helped faculty, students, and ASMC partners in Burkina Faso explore complex and deep-rooted practices, including roles and responsibilities of men and women in rural households, and who has “power” in local households and societies. The training also helped participants look at ways in which men and women participate in different agricultural value chains.

The technology assessment toolkit used by Jones in the five-day technology assessment workshop was designed by Cultural Practice LLC within the INGENAES project. While technologies can improve the timing of agricultural tasks and reduce drudgery, technologies are not inherently gender neutral Mechanization projects need to consider that if mechanized tools are introduced, cultural norms might dictate that men might be the ones who own or control their use. Jones explains that conducting a gender analysis acts as a first step to help researchers determine if a technology is working for its intended purpose to benefit both men and women farmers.

Jones and Rendall worked with a team of faculty and students from the ASMC Innovation Hub in Burkina Faso, and consortium members Dr. Tim Harrigan (Michigan State University) and Rob Burdick (Tillers International) to assess the planter technology using the technology assessment toolkit. Through interviews and observations, the team was able to determine that women do influence the technology adoption decision-making process, although they do not control the household’s decision-making regarding technology purchase.

Additionally, the team observed that women who are members of local agricultural producer associations or unions seem to enjoy increased influence over household decision-making in adopting new technologies. Men seemed to trust the information disseminated by the unions , and more readily adopted agricultural technologies promoted by the unions.

Jones said her biggest takeaway from the experience in Burkina Faso was for project leaders and researchers to keep the core purpose in mind when developing and refining technologies. Getting to the purpose requires solutions that are feasible and consider social and economic realities.

Over the last month, the ASMC Innovation Hub in Burkina Faso has been working to implement certain recommendations from the initial technology assessment conducted in June. For example, the hub is looking to test their planter technology with donkeys as draft animal power, as a feasible alternative to oxen, especially since female farmers do not tend to own oxen. The hub is also preparing to conduct a detailed gender study of the planter technology and its impacts on women farmers’ time and labor.

To read more about the technical aspects of the ASMC project, please read the Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab (SIIL) blog post about the project, located here

Appropriate-Scale Mechanization Enables a Chain of Innovations for Smallholder Farmers in Burkina Faso.

The Appropriate Scale Mechanization Consortium (ASMC)-Burkina Faso has great respect for the contribution of farmers and blacksmiths in the process of adapting and promoting mechanization for sustainable agricultural intensification. Farmers understand how mechanization advances their farming system, and work alongside the local blacksmiths who understand their needs and have the skills to repair and build their tools. Long-term impacts will result from nurturing the social process whereby farmers, blacksmiths, and other stakeholders take ownership of their own development. Our partners are developing confidence in identifying and evaluating problems and potential solutions. We are refining the process of experimenting, adopting and disseminating innovations that are useful and appropriate.

On-farm innovations

On-farm innovation is a key component in the process of continuous

Figure 1. Mechanized planting of maize will alleviate the tedious work of hand planting for women and children.

improvement of the farming system. An innovation can be physical, mechanical, biochemical, behavioral or a modification of an existing method or technology–“a new thing or method used in farming” (Nielsen, 2001)–to advance some aspect of the farming system. In Burkina Faso, advances in mechanization facilitated by the ASMC have enabled a chain of innovations in methods, techniques, and inputs for tillage, seed placement, plant population, crop rotations and crop varieties, feed processing and storage adapted to local conditions. See video: On Farm Innovations, Burkina Faso

Continue reading “Appropriate-Scale Mechanization Enables a Chain of Innovations for Smallholder Farmers in Burkina Faso.”

Burkina Faso Innovation Hub Wins National Grant to Scale-Up Planter Technology

Figure 1. Project coordinator Dr. Vinsoun Millogo accepted the award on February 2, 2018, in Ouagadougou

The Appropriate Scale Mechanization Innovation Hub-Burkina Faso recently received a nationally competitive grant to accelerate the process of scaling up the maize planter that was built and demonstrated at the Appropriate Scale Mechanization Field Hub in 2017. The submitted proposal, Mechanized Sowing of Maize with an Animal-Drawn Planter, was the top submission among 55 proposals received by the National Fund for Research and Innovation for Development (FONRID) in Burkina Faso. The proposal was in response to a call by FONRID for innovations poised to advance “Sustainable Intensification of Agro-Forestry and Pastoral Production.” After rigorous review by the Council of Science and Technology, it was concluded that the planter technology responds to an urgent need of smallholder farmers in their quest for national food security. The team received a grant of $18,666 that will supplement and accelerate the efforts to scale-up production and use of the planter (Fig. 1). FONRID’s support reaffirms that the Appropriate Scale Mechanization Consortium (ASMC) project is addressing an urgent agricultural need for smallholder farmers.  Continue reading “Burkina Faso Innovation Hub Wins National Grant to Scale-Up Planter Technology”