| Animal-Drawn Wheeled Toolcarriers: Perfected yet Rejected |
|6. Experience in Latin America: 1979-1986|
In Brazil about 20% of farmers presently use animal traction. A total of about seven million draft animals are employed, one third of them oxen and the rest horses, mules and donkeys, and about 1.7 million simple plows are in use in the country (Reds and Baron, 1985).
During the period 1965 - 1975 there was at least one small research trial with NIAE designed wheeled toolcarriers in Brazil, but this does not appear to have led to any promotional schemes. In recent years animal traction has become a more important area of research, with technical cooperation inputs from CEEMAT and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA).
Prototype wheeled toolcarriers based on the ICRISAT version of the Tropicultor were developed in 1979 by Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuaria (EMBRAPA) at its Centro de Pesquisa Agropecuaria do Tropico Semi-Arido (CPATSA). The prototype "Multicultor CPATSA I" seemed to catch the imagination of many, for following a national television programme, EMBRAPA received nearly 1000 enquiries from farmers, industrialists, institutes and traders requesting details (Lal, 1985). As a result of the apparent enthusiasm for wheeled toolcarriers, in 1981 two workshops started to produce toolcarriers based on the NIAE/ ICRISAT (Nikart) design (ITDG, 1985) but few units were ever made in these short lived initiatives.
CPATSA developed a second prototype "Multicultor CPATSA II" in 1981/82 which was an original design not based on either the Tropicultor or the Nikart models. However, early attempts to manufacture the CPATSA toolcarriers in cooperation with a local workshop were beset with technical and quality control problems, and the initial units did not stand up to rigorous field testing (Lal, 1985). As a result of these problems and the rapid progress of a parallel EMBRAPA/CEEMAT project, enthusiasm for the Multicultors CPATSA rapidly declined. CPATSA continued to work on designs of implements and cultivation systems to be used in conjunction with wheeled toolcarriers, but not on the toolcarriers themselves. Work was undertaken on a cultivation system intermediate between simple ridge cultivation and broadbeds. This was known as the W-form soil management system, and it made use of wheeled toolcarriers to carry grader-blades for the formation of wide, gently sloping ridges (Lal, 1986).
The EMBRAPA/CEEMAT scheme involving a major agricultural machinery manufacturer proved to be more successful in terms of achieved toolcarrier production. This initiative started in 1980 with the importation of eighteen sets of implements based on designs of Jean Nolle and manufactured by the French company Mouzon. These included six Tropicultors, three Arianas and two Houe Sine toolbars. Following a few months of on-station and on-farm trials in four states, twenty-four locally fabricated models were tested in nine states in 1981 (da Cunha Silva, 1982). By May 1982 a commercially manufactured range of three toolbars was launched under the name of Policultor (CEMAG, undated). The simplest, the Policultor 300, was based on the Houe Sine, the Policultor 600 was based on the Ariana while the wheeled toolcarrier, the Policultor 1500, was derived from the Tropicultor. In the first three years a total of seven hundred Policultor-1500 wheeled toolcarriers were reported to have been manufactured (Barbosa dos Anjos, 1985). In 1985 production of toolcarriers continued at the same level, 230 per year. The number manufactured in 1986 dropped to 147, and this rate of production continued into the first quarter of 1987 when thirty-four were made (CEMAG, personal communication, 1987).
The majority of wheeled toolcarriers were distributed to demonstration farms managed in cooperation with the extension services but physically based on the land of selected master farmers or community leaders (Reds and Baron, 1985).
The Policultor-1500 wheeled toolcarrier made by CEMAG is similar in versatility to the Tropicultor from which it is derived. It has a range of twenty implements that can be used including mouldboard and disc plows, ridgers, planters, and several different designs of tines, harrows and pulverizers. There is a range of equipment for distributing granular and liquid manures, and a hay rake option. Transport variations include carts and water tanks. The Policultor 1500 can be supplied with metal wheels and in addition to the version designed for use by a pair of oxen, the standard chassis can be attached to twin shafts for use with a single animal, or adapted for use by two donkeys or mules (CEMAG, undated).
It is too early to know how successful this wheeled toolcarrier programme will be in Brazil, for they have only been used by farmers for a few seasons and the initial manufacture and distribution of equipment have been subsidized. The general trend in production in the period 1984 - 1987 suggests a gradual decline rather than a strong acceleration.
Most workers involved in the wheeled toolcarrier programme seemed optimistic about their potential (Barbosa doe Anjos, 1985; Lal, 1985; Reis and Baron, 1985). The fact that farmers can sit on the wheeled toolcarriers is considered psychologically important in Brazil and attractive presentations of animal traction are an integral part of agricultural development policies in some states (Agriculture Parana, 1984).
However there has been at least one note of caution, for in a paper presented at a CEEMAT seminar on animal traction Bertaux (1985) counselled against the automatic assumption that multipurpose equipment is desirable in Brazil. He presented examples to show that, while the Policultor l500 could perform all the operations required on an 8 ha farm, similar operations could be performed using simpler and cheaper implements. In addition the simpler implements might also favour mixed cropping and intensification. The wheeled toolcarriers might appear well suited to the perceived need to increase cropping areas, but research in different disciplines in Brazil had shown effective methods of increasing yields on land already cropped, and many farms in the 2050 ha range had cultivation intensities of less than 50%. Bertaux argued for a farming system approach to agricultural equipment research and development, particularly in determining whether the farmers' objectives were to increase their area cultivated or intensify production on existing land.
Two factors that might favour the adoption of wheeled toolcarriers in Brazil include the fact that a quarter of the farms in the 2050 ha range use animal traction, and the fact that in much of Brazil, oxen are large, weighing about 750 kg (Reds and Baron, 1985). However Bertaux (1985) gave examples of how, by combining the use of oxen, horses and donkeys with a simpler range of implements and a cart, similar benefits might be achieved. Bertaux also cited many of the constraints to the effective development of new equipment designs in Brazil, including lack of material standards, delays, inflation and great differences in blacksmith skills. Bertaux did not entirely reject the concept of the wheeled toolcarriers, but he argued strongly that one should learn from past mistakes and that given the existing infrastructure and farming systems in Brazil it might be better to deploy resources in developing solutions of more immediate relevance. Unfortunately the arguments and examples that Bertaux presented at the CEEMAT seminar were not included in the official proceedings, and only a summary of his contribution was published (Bertaux, 1985).