Originally published on July 31, 2014.
Land O’Lakes Mozambique is implementing a USDA Food For Progress program in Manica Province. The primary focus of the project is to support small holder dairy producers, but an important secondary focus is the improvement of animal traction skills in the province to support traditional agriculture and the small holder dairy producers.
In August 2009 Fernando Andre Nota was trained by Tillers International in Animal Traction Basics. Like many other farmers in his home community, Mussapa, Mozambique, he had been using oxen for most of his life. However, he was very excited to learn Tillers techniques on animal training, which were more effective and less confrontational with the animal than traditional techniques for training oxen. He has taught his sons to train animals using the Tillers technique. Additionally, the improved ox yoke that he adopted from the training has helped his animals stay in better condition and better health.
The whole family is benefiting from this wooden cultivator because we changed our way of life and living standards. Children are now going to school, better clothing and enough family consumption throughout the year
However, the change that thrilled Fernando even more came from his neighbor, Elias Chingore, who participated in a Tillers International Artisan training in early 2011 and returned to Mussapa with a new design for an animal drawn weeder. This new weeder was a lightweight construction of wood and steel mixed and was very affordable. More importantly to Andre and his family, it was far more effective and quick than their previous system of using a modified moldboard plow or a hand hoe.
The addition of the Tillers weeder has allowed his two teams of oxen to work the whole day in shifts. The light weight and lower draft have made the work easier for his oxen and family. They can weed 72 rows, 50 meters long, per day which is about a half hectare. This improved weeding effectiveness has translated into greatly improved yields for Fernando and his family. In the three years he has been using the Tillers weeder his yields have gone from 2-3 tons per hectare to 6-8 tons per hectare, more than a 100% increase.
The increased yields are moving Fernando to be more of a commercial farmer and less subsistence. He is selling more than 2 tons per year for profit and is able to store his surplus maize to sell it at times when the price is highest. Better farming practices, such as planting in neat rows, has improved plant population control and reduced some of his losses in that respect.
Fernando is promoting the new weeding technology to his neighbors and is seeing an improvement in many ways in the community. People are wearing nicer cloths and more kids are going to school and staying in school longer.