| Animal-Drawn Wheeled Toolcarriers: Perfected yet Rejected |
|6. Experience in Latin America: 1979-1986|
In Honduras pairs of oxen are widely used to pull traditional wooden prows and wooden carts. Jean Nolle carried out a consultancy involving the local fabrication of Tropicultor toolcarriers in 1972. This programme appears to have been small and short-lived, for an agricultural engineer involved in toolcarrier development in Honduras from 1985 to 1987 had not come across any Tropicultors in the course of his work (D. Tinker, personal communication, 1987).
Between 1982 and 1985 the Unidad de Desarrollo y Adaptacion (UDA) of the Natural Resources Ministry with technical cooperation from ODA and USAID made about fifteen wheeled toolcarriers. These were based on the Yunticultor of Mexico, a derivative of the ICRISAT/NIAE Nikart design. All of these were lent to farmers for evaluation and an indication of their acceptability. The general acceptability of the Yunticultors was low. This was mainly due to the large change in the farming system implied by Yunticultor use and the high investment cost of about US $ 2000. Even if it were intrinsically profitable, such an investment would represent a large risk for a small farmer.
The low farmer acceptability combined with the high cost and problems of local manufacture meant that the programme was nearly terminated in 1985. However the toolcarrier was considered by the UDA as prestigious, for it could give an impressive performance at field demonstrations, where it was shown as a high quality "ox-tractor" for ride-on plowing, disc-harrowing, ridging and cultivating. It was therefore decided to undertake a major redesign of the Yunticultor with the objective of reducing the cost and increasing the ease of manufacture. The initial model of Yunticultor/Nikart used several components that had to be cut with gas from thick steel plate. It also had wheel hubs based on the Ambassador car widely used in India, but unavailable in Central America. Work on a Mark II Yunticultor started in 1985, and was designed to be made only from locally available materials such as angle-iron, and to have all cutting based on hacksaws. The main chassis frame member originally made of galvanized pipe was replaced with a box section made from two angle-irons. This was considered stronger and the straight edges facilitated jig construction and use (Tinker, 1986).
By 1987 UDA had built four Mk II Yunticultors and through the various design modifications the anticipated "commercial" cost of the Mk II had been reduced to about US $ 1500. This price did not include any seeder, as the only implements available were prows, ridgers, tines and a cart body. It is accepted that the Yunticultor Mk II is still likely to be too expensive for use by peasant farmers. Therefore any promotion will be aimed at either groups of farmers or entrepreneurs interested in developing hire services with toolcarriers. It was planned that the Mk II toolcarrier would be initially promoted on a very small scale by two NGO charities. One NGO workshop was to make five toolcarriers in 1987 for use with peasant groups, while a second charity was intending to buy two in order to encourage contract hiring.
There appears to be little optimism relating to short-term prospects for wheeled toolcarriers in Honduras. It is generally accepted the design changes will not have significantly altered the reasons for the present low acceptability of the implements in existing farming systems. Nevertheless it has been argued that continued work on wheeled toolcarriers may be justified by possible future applications within new farming systems. These include deep beds for vegetable production and broadbed contour farming for soil and water conservation. Thus in 1988/89 research trials may be undertaken involving the use of wheeled toolcarriers for vegetable- production (D. Tinker, personal communication, 1987).
Wheeled toolcarriers have proved technically competent in Honduras, but they have not been found economically appropriate in existing farming systems. Honduras is therefore searching for a possible application for these implements, and this is likely to be a long-term task. Thus there is, at present, no evidence to suggest that wheeled toolcarriers will be adopted by farmers in Honduras.