By Frédéric Baudron/CIMMYT
The Farm Mechanization and Conservation Agriculture for Sustainable Intensification (FACASI) project is addressing the decline of farm power in Africa. The project is working with smallholder farmers to deliver small mechanization based on inexpensive, two-wheel tractors and introduce power-saving technologies, such as conservation agriculture.
Last March, participants evaluated the performance of the Gongli seeder – a seed drill sold in China – under the typical conditions of maize smallholder farmers in Kenya and Tanzania. Gongli inventor Jeff Esdaile, engineers from the Centre for Agricultural Mechanization and Rural Technology (CAMATEC) and engineers from the Kenya Network for Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies met at a CAMATEC workshop from 9 to 20 September in Arusha, Tanzania, to modify the Gongli seeder and produce the Gongli Africa +. The original Gongli seeder is well suited to seed small-grain crops in close rows into fields without long, loose residue or heavy weeds. For sowing maize in a typical field around Arusha, however, the machine had several shortfalls: it handled loose maize residues and heavy weeds poorly; the pressing wheels got in the way of the operator’s walk; the seed and fertilizer hoppers were too high and blocked the operator’s visibility; the seed meters were not precise enough for maize planting; and transporting the machine from field to field required walking long distances because the machine cannot be ridden and does not fit in a trailer.
The modified Gongli Africa + features cutting discs that can be fitted in front of the standard tines for heavy mulch and weed loads. Two large back tires, used as pressing wheels in the field, were added, as well as a platform for the operator to stand on, facilitating transport to and from the fields. Because the machine will be used to sow a maximum of two rows, the third bar was removed from the seeder. The seed and fertilizer hoppers were lowered, and, finally, specialized seed metering systems for large seeds such as those of maize were installed. Results from initial field testing were encouraging. Thorough field testing will take place next November in Tanzania and Kenya. After minor modifications, the specifications of the Gongli Africa + will be sent to Gongli LTD for commercial manufacturing.