Why use animal traction?
Agricultural mechanization has become a high priority in developing nations. This innovation is important because farmers using traditional techniques are unable to produce sufficient food for increasing populations. Mechanization can expand the area under cultivation and provide better soil preparation, leading to greater harvests. Government extension services therefore strive to give farmers tools, information and advice to enable them to increase productivity.
Benefits of mechanization to farmers include lightened workloads, better and more regular yields, or an easing of problems caused by short growing seasons or insufficient labor. Mechanization also can help to produce income with which farmers can acquire goods and services.
Yet mechanization is not practical or economical for every farmer. New tools are expensive. Acceptance of new techniques increases dependency on outside technical assistance. Thus the farmer who already produces enough food for his family may be reluctant to risk a known harvest (traditional yield) for an uncertain gain in productivity.
Early Egyptian Hoe: one-piece construction
Improved Handhoe: two-piece construction
Modern Moldboard Plow
Efforts to revolutionize agriculture with machines, cooperatives, and market controls have met with social resistance and technical failure in some areas. Similarly, efforts to improve handpowered systems with fertilizers, pesticides, and improved seeds generally have not produced food surpluses nor eased the burden of manual labor.
The search for agricultural technology that meets the needs and desires of both farmers and governments has led to increased interest in animal traction ("antrac"), sometimes called "light mechanization". Farmers, agronomists and agricultural extension services often cite the following advantages of using animal traction:
• It reduces the difficulty of labor and makes farming a more appealing occupation. Farmers who might seek employment in other areas are encouraged to develop existing skills and abilities and improve operations.
• It increases productivity. Replacing handhoes with draft animals and equipment, farmers
can double or triple the area cultivated, thereby increasing crop yields.
• It is affordable technology. Animals and equipment are low in cost compared to tractors. With careful planning and application, the investment can pay for itself in a few years. Low-interest loans are often available through government or sponsoring agencies.
• Animals and equipment can be supplied locally, creating less dependence on external resources than tractors and other machinery. Tractors need fossil fuels, spare parts, and maintenance know-how which may not be available to farmers.
• Used on a small scale, it does not require radical changes in cropping patterns or the role of family or hired labor. Although it does reduce manpower needs in some field operations, the reduction is not drastic and labor can shift to other activities like planting, spraying, harvesting and caring for animals and harness.
• It creates work opportunities. The use of animal traction can stimulate the development of artisan resources, increasing jobs for local blacksmiths, carpenters, and leather-makers who produce needed equipment. It also creates work in the areas of transport, waterpulling, and till
age on a contract basis. (Farmers can hire out their teams and equipment.) Often new opportunities arise in marketing and agro-industry.
• It encourages livestock production and development of meat, leather and byproduct markets.