Developing strategies for sustainable farm mechanization in Africa is key to increasing rice efficiency and reduce drudgery. AfricaRice and its partners have been involved in identifying and adapting small-scale labor-saving technology for use by smallholders on their rice fields.
Seeder (one-row rotary dibbler): Based on yield gap surveys conducted in 2012-2014 by Africa-wide Rice Agronomy Task Force in the rice hubs in 11 African countries, key technologies were developed and introduced for validation and dissemination. These technologies included the seeder (one-row rotary dibbler).
After on-station testing of various types of seeder imported from Asia, a one-row rotary dibbler was developed. On-station and on-farm testing in Benin showed that, on average, the one-row rotary dibbler seeder increased labor efficiency by more than four times compared to the farmer practice.
Fertiseeder: Field trials of three seeders and a fertiseeder conducted in 2018 at four sites in Madagascar with 222 famers (132 men and 90 women) produced a clear ‘winner’ in the form of the ‘fertiseeder’. This mechanical seeder combines four actions into one: drilling a hole, adding the rice seed, adding fertilizer and covering the hole. Sixty-four percent of the men and 44% of the women preferred the fertiseeder over another three seeders without the fertilizer application functionality.
The men were happy to point out the advantages of seeders over hand-sowing in terms of reduced labor, cost, efficiency and precision. Female farmers also appreciated its efficiency with regard to time saving and large area coverage.
The time-saving element goes beyond the sowing itself, as rice sown evenly spaced in rows is amenable to simpler mechanical weeding. The advantages of this new machine are clear: it creates uniform holes, adds the correct number of seeds and the right dose of fertilizer.
A major complaint of the women farmers was that the fertiseeder is hard to push or is heavy. With this in mind, and despite the fact that the prototype tested weighed less than 10 kg, AfricaRice is working to produce an improved, lighter version of the fertiseeder.