Efficient and affordable mini-tillers save farmers’ costs and improve rural employment in the earthquake-affected districts of Nepal
Mitra Shrestha is a farmer from Nuwakot, one of Nepal’s severe earthquake-affected districts. Like many farmers, Shrestha faced many challenges after the 2015 earthquakes. Due to the huge loss of draft animals and ongoing outmigration of agricultural labor, she has significant difficulty cultivating her agricultural land, which already suffers chronic low productivity.
Mini-tillers came to her rescue. Mini-tillers are small cultivators that can quickly prepare soil for agricultural production and seed sowing. With not relying on bullocks and hired labor for cultivation, she feels mechanization has saved her time, cost and drudgery.
“Keeping bullocks is costly and tedious because they need feed and fodder throughout the year, even when they are not in use. Whereas, the mini-tiller needs fuel only when it is being used. Besides, in one hour the machine can cultivate an area that would require a pair of bullocks to work an entire day” Shrestha said.
With the mini-tiller, Shrestha was able to prepare her rice field mechanically, instead of by using bullocks. She prepared a 0.3 ha rice field in a day at a cost of US$ 36, which would otherwise have required six paired-bullocks-days, costing US$ 90. She thus saved US$ 54 and five person-days.
Importantly, Shrestha could plant rice on time, despite a huge labor scarcity since most of the farmers plant rice at the same time. Mitra uses her new surplus time for vegetable farming and other household chores. “In fact, I now also use the mini-tiller for land preparation of potatoes, since it can till deeper and make ridges with attachments.”
Shrestha is a member of the Kisan Agricultural Cooperative, which procured a subsidized mini-tiller through CSISA’s Earthquake Recovery Support Program this year. The introduction of scale-appropriate machinery, including mini-tillers, are helping farmers cultivate their land on time and are opening up job opportunities for those who would otherwise migrate in search of work. Mini-tillers can also be operated by women, who are responsible for a wide variety of activities, helping to reduce their drudgery.
Unfortunately, modern machines like tillers still remain inaccessible to many smallholder farmers in the hills of Nepal as they may not have money to buy them or may lack knowledge about how to use and maintain them.
In coordination with the Ministry of Agricultural Development, CSISA distributed 500 mini-tillers and attachments (e.g., seeder, reaper, thresher, water-pump) in eight districts. However, to achieve the full suite of benefits, agricultural machinery need to be used effectively and efficiently, and maintained to prolong the life of the machines. Frequently, the unavailability of repair workshops for machines at the local level is one of the most challenging factors in the sustained adoption of scale-appropriate machinery, especially in the rural hills of Nepal. CSISA has addressed this by training local mechanics in mini-tiller repair, and providing the appropriate types of spare parts to these mechanics.
Involving Rural Youth
Rabi Paudel, 18, operates a mini-tiller repair workshop in Galchi, Nuwakot district. “Basic training on repair and maintenance provided by CSISA provided me a jumpstart to becoming a mini-tiller mechanic. Refresher training further sharpened my skills and knowledge in the mechanics field,” said Paudel. “Operating only a mini-tiller repair shop will not be a sustainable enterprise, since this repair is mostly seasonal (June – July), so I am providing other services like repair of electric water pumps, power tillers, tractors, threshers, and generators.”
In Paudel’s command area there are 37 mini-tillers for which he is providing repair services, mostly through farm visits, responding to calls from owners and traveling as far as 52 km to repair a min-tiller. On average, Paudel’s costs to repair a mini-tiller can range from US$ 50 to US$ 150 per machine, but he can still make a net profit of about 20-30 percent.
Paudel is now also a sales agent for SK Trader, a major supplier of mini-tillers and attachments in the Earthquake Recovery Support Program, and has sold 24 mini-tillers, earning US$ 20 to US$ 50 per minitiller. Paudel said, “Once the farmers till their land by mini-tiller no one would like to plow by bullocks; many farmers have already sold their bullocks.”
CSISA, in coordination with the Department of Agriculture, Nepal Agricultural Research Council and mini-tiller suppliers, provided mini-tiller repair and maintenance training to 81 local mechanics and help establish mini-tiller repair workshops by providing spare parts worth US$ 12,800 in remote rural areas of eight project districts. This initiative has the potential to significantly contribute to the government’s agriculture machinery promotion program.
CSISA, in coordination with the Department of Agriculture, Nepal Agricultural Research Council and mini-tiller suppliers, provided mini-tiller repair and maintenance training to 81 local mechanics and helped establish mini-tiller repair workshops by providing spare parts worth US$ 12,800 in rural areas of the eight project districts. This initiative has the added benefit of contributing to the government’s agriculture machinery promotion program.
Another rural youth, 27-year old Mina Nath Rimal, from Khadka Bhyanjyang, Nuwakot, was able to harvest 1.85 ha rice within 3 days with his walk-behind reaper that he accessed through CSISA, and now provides reaper services to other farmers.
He could easily harvest 0.05 ha rice field in 30 minutes and earn a gross income US$ 4. The same crop would have previously been harvested by two people, their labor costing US$ 8. At this rate, Rimal could earn a gross income US$ 64 per day. The reaper works for multiple crops, so he could also provide services in the rice and wheat seasons.
“I am always interested to learn new kinds of agricultural machinery that reduce human drudgery, and save time and money. Now I am more than happy getting opportunities to operate this reaper,” Rimal said. “No rural youth will go abroad if such opportunities are available at the local level.”
This article is authored by K.C. Dilli, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, CIMMYT.