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!
Innovation Lab addresses agricultural gender inequality in Cambodia through leadership, education and mechanization. (Photo credit: Molly Webb, SIIL)
Researchers with USAID’s Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification (SIIL) take a holistic approach to their work, looking at the ways in which their innovations affect all aspects of a farmer’s life. For SIIL investigators, gender dynamics are a constant issue of importance.
“The one thing we know is that so much is changing for women around the world. We want them to know enough so that they can respond to that change in positive and productive ways,” said sociologist Cornelia Flora, Emeritus Professor at Iowa State University, research professor at Kansas State University and member of the SIIL’s External Advisory Board.
In Cambodia, for example, gender equality is a national priority, but problems still persist.
“Male family members are moving away from villages into cities or going to other neighboring countries to find employment,” said Vara Prasad, director of the SIIL. “But the families still have to continue farming because they have the land and they can’t waste that, so those who are left must take over the farm. Those individuals are primarily women.” Continue reading “Sustainable Intensification Promotes Inclusive Farming Practices”→
The overarching goal of the Appropriate Scale Mechanization Hub in Burkina Faso is to assist the country’s smallholder farmers in improving their quality of life by integrating appropriate technologies into crop and livestock systems that sustain profitability and boost ecosystem resilience by alleviating labor bottlenecks while reducing the drudgery of labor-intensive farm tasks.
Figure 1. Université Polytechnique de Bobo-Dioulasso students and ASMC interns Sayaogo Boureima, Victor Ye, Fatoumata Ganou and Dianda Saidou.
We are near the end of the second year of the SIIL Appropriate Scale Mechanization Consortium (ASMC) project and are reviewing the initial objectives established in collaboration with the stakeholder group and advisory team to ensure that our activities are in line with project objectives. Stakeholders include the U.S. and Burkina Faso ASMC project teams along with local farmers, extension educators, students, agribusiness representatives, agricultural lenders, farmer organizations, technical service providers and others in the Hauts Bassins region.
The interaction with stakeholders was essential in defining the scope and structure of the work in Burkina Faso, and just as importantly, in illuminating a set of common goals and values shared by Burkinabé farmers. We asked:
What is the local vision of small-scale farming systems that integrate all aspects of sustainability?
Which aspects of the local farming systems are most important to retain if the overall objective is a sustainable balance of environmental, economic and social issues?
What diminishes (physical, biological, cultural, etc.) the sustainability of local farming systems, and what can be done to overcome it?
How can mechanization improve local farming systems that balance sustainability and social and gender equity?
All around the world, youth often aim to have a better life than their parents. For those engaged in agriculture, this sentiment is particularly true. The traditional perception of agriculture is one of subsistence, meaning that farmers only produce enough food to eat, with minimal profit. The farmers’ children recognize this and want something better. Currently, trends and attitudes see youth looking to leave the laborious farming life behind for better opportunities in other sectors. “Rural youth recently reported that access to information, lack of credit and negative perceptions around farming are the leading reasons” [IFAD, 2017]. In Cambodia, migration of young rural workers away from farms has been significant in the past 15 years and threatens to cause a future labor shortage in the agriculture industry. This creates a challenge, in Cambodia and many other countries, as a new generation of farmers is needed to achieve the global challenge of feeding a growing world population.
In Cambodia, the Appropriate Scale Mechanization Consortium (ASMC) is working to change the labor-intensive perception of farming and showcase agricultural careers as an attractive option for youth. The advances in agronomy, crop science, agribusiness, agro-engineering, agro-processing and agricultural education, agriculture has evolved into an expansive and exciting field in recent decades. An agriculture-centered life has taken on new meaning, and there is a need to expose youth to the vast opportunities available within the field.