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International scene

The "Swiss Collar" for Developing Countries

by Waclaw Micuta.

An efficient harness must be designed in such a way that the animal can use its body in a natural way. Placing a yoke on the head or neck obliges the animal to alter its normal stance and also forces it to curve its spine In order to hold the yoke in place. Often adult animals are incapable of doing this and cannot be worked. Apart from considerations of posture, attaching animals by the neck or head Is cruel in that it exposes them to considerable unnecessary suffering when loads are pulled over rough ground. The continual shocks that occur during such work are transmitted directly to very vulnerable parts of the body.

Ideally, harnesses should be as light as possible. This being said, the horse collars perfected over the centuries in, for example, Europe and North America were relatively heavy. Those designed for heavy work weighed about 20 kg. However, given the benefit of modern materials it is now possible to reduce this figure considerably.

It is generally accepted that the best harness ever applied to animals is the horse collar. Whilst it first appeared in Europe in the 11th century, it is not clear whether it was invented on that continent or was brought from the East by Mongolian tribes.

In most areas the collar harness was employed exclusively with horses, which assumed an increasingly important role as saddle and draught animals. It was, of course, also possible to harness horses by means of a breast band. This method was, however, only suitable for light work, otherwise the band tended to wound the animal and press against the blood vessels and windpipe. For this reason, horse collars came to be generally accepted and were improved upon, diversified and perfected over the centuries. Horse collars meet all the criteria of a good harness.

The Swiss oxen collar

It is curious to note that the collar harness, despite its acknowledged qualities, has, throughout the centuries, been reserved almost exclusively for horses. It was not, for example, adapted to bovines or other draught animals such as donkeys and camels. Even in Europe bovines have traditionally been subjected to cruel and inefficient yokes.

A notable exception to this rule is found in Switzerland where farmers did adapt the horse collar to bovines. This not onIy enabled them to increase the draught efficiency of the animals but also to harness horses and bovines together in the same team - an important advantage for those farmers who could only afford one horse.

Contrary to popular belief, perpetuated by the use of yokes, bovines do not pull best from the head or neck. Rather their pulling force, like that of horses and indeed of human beings, comes from the shoulders.

The design of the Swiss collar harness for oxen was greatly simplified during the Second World War when large numbers of draught horses were requisitioned by the army. As tractors were rare and fuel severely rationed, farmers were left with bovines (mainly cows) as their principal energy source for agricultural work and transportation. Faced with this situation, the Swiss authorities invited the "Federation suisse d'élevage de la race tachetée rouge (FSERT)" to:

a) conduct research aimed at improving and simplifying the traditional bovine collar;

b) provide farmers with instruction in the correct use of bovines for agricultural work.

The FSERT study was published and widely distributed among farmers and harness makers. The new collar design that resulted from the research represented a significant departure from the horse collar. Only the shoulders of the animal are protected by two pads while a third pad, fixed between the two hames, serves to keep the collar in the correct position on the body.

A modified "Swiss collar" harness for developing countries


It is generally acknowledged that the three-pad collar developed in Switzerland for bovines is an extremely good one. However, it has usually been considered too costly and too difficult to produce in developing countries.

The author consequently began research on means of adapting the Swiss collar to the conditions prevailing in the Third World. The aim of his investigations was to preserve the functional value of the Swiss collar but to simplify the design and reduce the production cost so as to render it accessible to the world's poorest communities.

Brief description of the collar

The basic components of the collar are the hames and the pads both of which may be readily produced from materials available locally.

The hames

The hames are formed from two pieces of wood shaped to fit the contours of the animal. They should be made from hard, yet resilient wood such as that used locally for the manufacture of handles for agricultural tools like axes or hoes. It is important to ensure that the grain of the wood runs along the curve as this strengthens the hames. If the grain does not follow the curve, or goes in the opposite direction, there will be a tendency for the hames to break - especially at those points where the traces are attached or where the curve is most accentuated.

In the past, harness makers sought out pieces of wood with natural curves in order to construct the hames. Later they learnt to bend straight sections using heat or steam (the same technique is, of course, used by wheelwrights).

If good-quaiity wood is employed, the thickness of the hames need not exceed 3 cm for bovines or 2 cm for donkeys. If the wood is less satisfactory, the thickness will probably have to be increased to compensate. While good-quality wood is always desirable, the author has found during field work that satisfactory harnesses may still be made even if the wood is not ideal in all respects.

In order that the hames should fit properly, the contours of the animal, in its normal standing posture, should be carefully measured. This task may be facilitated by using thin copper wire which can be bent along the animal's body to reproduce the exact shape. An even better solution, where available, is to use the rubber strip employed by engineers for the measurement of curves.

Measurement is commenced at the top of the neck, just in front of the point of the shoulder. The contours recorded with the copper wire or rubber strip are transposed onto a sheet of paper. The wood may then be cut accordingly. It should be noted that the width of the hames must be larger in the middle section where the traces are attached. Like a bow, the thickness tails off at the top and bottom and the extremities are curved outwards to provide strong anchors for the leather straps (at the top) and chain (at the bottom) which hold the two hames together.

It is essential that the hames should fit the animal well in order to ensure the maximum of comfort. For bovines, which rarely trot, the hames are placed wider apart at the bottom. For animals which do occasionally trot, such as donkeys, the hames may be closed slightly more around the breast so as to provide increased stability.

The individual components of the hames described in the text are shown in this sketch.

The pads

The shoulders of draught animals must be well protected against the pressure of the hames - hence the importance of pads.

TraditionalIy, pads were manufactured from leather but there is no reason why they should not be made from any available cloth. For example, the jute bags (particularly flour sacks) available in all developing countries offer a good solution.

The chosen material is folded and cut, and then sewn together by hand or by machine.

A line of stitching is made 6 cm from the lower (wider) edge of the pad to create a smaller sausage shaped compartment which will serve to attach the pad to the hame. The material is then turned inside out and filled with any suitable stuffing material available locally. The chosen material must be "springy" so that the pad will not tend to flatten during work. One of the best stuffings is animal hair which is resilient to pressure and also to sweat. There are, however, a number of vegetal matters that will serve as well. Local mattress makers may be a useful source of information on suitable stuffing materials, which include sand sedge as well as fibres from, for example, palms, agave, coconuts or sisal. The lower, sausage-shaped compartment should be filled before the main body. Once the stuffing process has been completed the edges of the pad may be stiched. The upper compartment is then folded over and sewn down.

Attaching the pad to the hame calls for some skill on the part of the harness maker. Leather thongs are passed between the sausage compartment and the main body of the pad, threaded through holes in the hame and fixed.

The traces are attached to the hames by means of two holes drilled through the hame at a point level with the animals's shoulders.

The rest of the tackle- back strip, breeches, swingle-tree, etc. - is exactly the same as on conventional harness gear.


Testing the new collar


The new collar was given to some

Swiss farmers who continue to use bovines for daily agricultural work. They have been using the collar daily for the last three years and it has given entire satisfaction. The collars have not as yet shown any signs of deterioration (although the rest of the tacker usually undergoes minor repairs about once a year).

The new equipment has the same functional qualities as the traditional Swiss or »Bern« collar but is lighter, easier to produce and much less expensive. Under working conditions, both collars have been found to give similar performance and comfort.


At the beginning of 1982, the author trained a first harness-maker at the rural stove-making centre established by the Bellerive Foundation in Ruthigiti village (Karat location) near Nairobi. The new harness was made locally and fitted to a donkey and cart used to deliver completed cookstoves to outlying households. It was immediately accepted and liked by the local population.

The new harness was subsequently adopted by the Reverend Daniel Schellenberg on behalf of the Baptist Mission of Kenya. The author and another Bellerive Consultant trained disabled persons at the Salvation Army Centre, Thika, in the skills needed for the production of buckles, rings, chains and other items of tackle. The centre was soon able to commence small-scale production and, by the end of 1982, the new collar was being used on donkeys in several villages in the Thika region assisted by the Baptist Mission.

In February 1983, the author assisted with the creation of a harness making unit within the Agricultural Engineering Department of the University of Nairobi. To set the new unit in motion, the author provided basic harness-making tools and equipment and introduced a local harness-maker who had been trained the previous year in Ruthigiti. The author also demonstrated the techniques needed to fit the collars on different draught animals, notably zebu bullocks.


The significant advantages of using a collar harness rather than a yoke are universally recognised. In 1920, Ringelmann, while testing harnesses in Grand-Joran, France, established that an ox equipped with a collar could accomplish the same amount of work as two oxen attached to a yoke. Similarly, in the 1950s, Mr. Jean Gamier demonstrated in South Asia that a collar harness increased the pulling force of buffalos by 50 percent. The Bellerive Foundation's recent experience in Kenya bears out the above findings.

Quite apart from providing increased pull, it should not be overlooked that the new harness also eliminates the suffering caused by the inefficient harnessing techniques prevalent in developing countries. The useful working lives of draught animals are thus prolonged and they produce more and' better meat, milk and manure. it

Promotion of the Use of Draught Animals in the North-Western Province of Zambia

by Herbert Müller

In Zambia oxpower is currently making a comeback after years of official neglect and unsuccessful attempts at tractorization. The tractor policy has been a drain on the country's scarce foreign exchange resources and above all, has tailed to enable subsistence farmers to graduate or "emerge" to the level of Peasant farmers.

The use of draught animals is widespread among cattle-keeping people in the southern part of Zambia. It is now being encouraged in areas where there is no such tradition. One such area is the remote North Western Province of Zambia, which probably has the least developed infrastructure of all the Zambian provinces: only one all weather road connects the province to the rest of the country and only 8 per cent of the population of 250000 have access to this road.

The area along the Zambezi river in the west of the province has large herds of cattle under traditional management, but the forested area around Kabompo has never been a cattle-keeping one and all agricultural activities were at subsistence level until recently. Agriculture and a variety of crafts(such as beekeeping and woodworking) are now actively promoted by the Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) jointly run by the Zambian Government and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ). In particular the IRDP's animal husbandry programme, including a veterinary, cattle-keeping and ox-training section, represents an attempt to induce change in the subsistence farming sector. The oxtraining programme includes castration of young bulls, rearing and feeding of oxen up to three years of age, breaking oxen to the plough, the training of farmers in the use of ox-ploughs, and an effort to upgrade transport facilities through the use of oxcarts. This programme differs from others in Zambia insofar as it provides trained oxen as well as ploughs and carts and gives credits for oxen and equipment to farmers who have neither previous experience with cattle nor finance to purchase them. Thus, the two major constraints on the use of oxen- unfamiliarity with cattle and lack of finance - are overcome. In the past it proved to be extremely difficult for subsistence and peasant farmers alike to obtain small loans from either the Agricultural Finance Company or the Commercial Banks. Both require the security of a previous harvest before giving finance for the purchase of oxen and implements necessary to produce such a harvest.

It has been recognized that the transition from subsistence to "emergent" farmer (emergent farmers in Zambia are those who have increased their production to the extent that they are able to market at least half their produce) can only be successful if two conditions are fulfilled:

1. draught power is necessary to increase the hectarage and enable a marketable surplus to be grown, and

2. transport is needed to enable this surplus to be marketed.

It is this second point which in the past has often been overlooked in rural development programmes.

The oxcart which the IRDP makes available together with the plough and oxen will give the incentive to their owners to increase their hectarage, since now they have the means of reaching a market or grain depot with their produce. Nearly one hundred farmers around Kabompo have so far obtained a cart from the IRDP. Several surveys have shown that farmers travel a maximum distance of about 20 km to a market or grain depot with oxcarts. The use of carts can thus increase the area suitable for emergent farmers from the immediate neighbourhood to a radius of 20 km around markets and depots.

In view of the fact that only 20 per cent of the land is suitable for agriculture, such an area can accommodate something over 2,000 such farmers.

The carts are not made in the Small-scale Equipment Section of the IRDP's workshop, but by local craftsmen under contract to the IRDP. Craftsmen of the Manyinga rural workshop and in Zambezi are guaranteed a fixed price for the completed carts. Metal parts (nuts and bolts) and components such as wheels and axles are supplied by the IRDP to the craftsmen, who use Ioal hardwood to finish the carts. This form of contract was chosen to encourage the craftsmen to use their own materials. They do in fact produce their own planks by pitsawing local hardwood trees such as the Mukwa (Pterocarpus angolensis). It is hoped that as their skills develop they will be able to make carts without the assistance of the IRDP.

A. Simuchoba, a correspondent of the "Sunday Times of Zambia" who visited the project, summarized his appreciation thus:

"The most interesting aspect of the whole project is that it is introducing nothing really new or unmanageable by the local people . . . The 'small approach' provides a strong base for progression into more complicated forms of agriculture and other production at an appropriate rate. This approach ensures that not all will be lost once foreign expertise is withdrawn because the people will still manage."

More Consideration for the Indians

At the end of May a conference was held in Cholula, Puebla, Mexico. It was attended by representatives from various centres for appropriate technology - In Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru. Also at the meeting were representatives of the Comision Interamericana de Mujeres, CIM (Inter-American Women's Commission of the Organization of American States), the Junta del Acuerdo de Cartagena, the OIT, and UNICEF. The conference was organized by the Inter-American Indian Institute, a specialist organization of the OAS (Organization of American States). The participants at this five-day conference, the purpose of which was a mutual exchange of experience, expressed their common views In the document reprinted here.

The governments of the American states should attach greater importance to the creation and transfer of technology in collaboration with the Indian communities and other urban and rural low-income sectors of our societies, both by means of specific policies in the field of science and technology and by strengthening the national and international organizations working in the Indian sector.

The role should also be acknowledged which the grass-roots Indian organizations are capable of playing in connection with formulation and promotion of viable alternative technological strategies aimed at resolving concrete problems.

It is necessary to promote, at the levels of regional, national and international institutions, the investigation of traditional subsistence strategies and of the technological systems upon which they are based, as a means of achieving adequate standards of living in Indian communities.

Both government and non-government organizations involved in the promotion of integrated development of Indian populations are urged to collaborate to achieve this end.

Those technologies developed by the societies with a high level of energy consumption, including those gathered together under the current concept of appropriate technology, have in the majority of cases proven to not be those most suited tour societies.

Traditional technologies with present-day relevance

All of the countries are called upon to work on the development and transfer of a technology aimed at

a) the recovery, consolidation, investigation and development of those traditional technologies of our peoples which have demonstrated a high degree of adaptability to given ecological and sociocultural conditions;

b) giving consideration to indigenous systems of socioeconomic organization;

c) the participation of Indian and grass-roots groups in the overall process of developing technologies to satisfy their needs.

The traditional technological systems have proven their effectiveness and efficiency under a variety of ecological conditions. At the same time, they are capable of producing insights which should be exchanged with those of other regions which are ecologically and socially similar. Their financial accessibility and relative ease of implementation make them highly recommendable.

Technologies produced by the institutionalized system of investigation and development should also be put to work for Indian populations in accordance with the criteria which they themselves determine.

National, international and private institutions should, prior to initiating development programs in Indian areas, carry out investigations of their traditional systems of livelihood, their technological strategies and the sociocultural contexts in which they operate, in order to avoid indiscriminate implantation of inadequate technological models which, instead of solving local problems, actually tend to aggravate them.

Self-determination of different ethnic groups

It is necessary to increase political recognition of the right of different ethnic groups to cultural, political and socioeconomic self-determination and participation in the government of their respective national societies. Efforts to provide appropriate technology for the Indian sector, should also aim in this direction.

An understanding of the adaptive strategies of indigenous groups would also represent a powerful contribution toward alleviating the growing dissatisfaction among those sectors of our societies which are integrated most into their dominant forms, especially among young people. At the same time, it would provide tools for fashioning our own development models which would not repeat the mistakes of contemporary dominant societies, which have been characterized by social injustice and mismanagement of natural resources.

The academic institutions and those responsible for scientific and technological policies of the countries of Latin America must promote the investigation of traditional technological systems of indigenous groups along with their knowledge of ecosystems and natural resources, which in many instances have shown evidence of possessing explanations superior to conventional scientific models. This should take the form of inclusion of tines' topics in teaching programs and their application at the level of those interested.

Years of practical experience

In recognition of the important role played by women in indigenous societies, as well as in response to historical tendencies to isolate them from decision-making processes, projects involving appropriate technology should promote full participation both of women and of their families.

During the last decade, a small number of research and promotion groups have gained experience in technology and organization in the rural Indian sector in Latin America, in spite of enormous financial difficulties and lack of institution acceptance. Not with standing these obstacles, they have already accumulated a significant amount of practical knowledge and awareness concerning appropriate technology. This experience could form the basis of a coordinated policy of investigation and action aimed at resolving the major problems confronting the peoples of Latin America. X

The University of Hohenheim's Involvement in West Africa

by Gerhard Großmann

The comprehensive research work that is at present being undertaken by the University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Federal Republic of Germany, has now been extended by the inclusion of a special research field on "Site oriented Agriculture in West Africa".

In the new Special Research Sector No. 308, 27 scientists from three of the faculties at Hohenheim are working together, supported, among other things, by the Hohenheim Centre for Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture under Professor Dr. Dr. h.c. Erwin Reisch. This new project, which was welcomed by the German Research Association, will run for a maximum of 15 years - like all similar projects - and will be realized in several stages. Hohenheim has already signed contracts for cooperation with two of over 13 internationally sponsored agricultural research centres. These are ICRISAT in Nigeria and IITA in Niger. Hohenheim will be represented at each research location by one scientist and a number of Ph. D. candidates who will be supervised by professors on a two-year rota.

As became clear in discussions with the heads of sections dealing with plant and animal production as well as those responsible for the socio-economic, economic and institutional development of the countries concerned (which stretch as far north as the Sahel zone), the main tasks will be to carry out a thorough analysis of the situation, to collect data on the environmental conditions and to obtain an impression of the traditional systems of production. Only then, and in many cases only on the spot, will it be possible to work out approaches to solutions. The watchword is: better exploitation of local opportunities. Not by using a lot of complicated technology but by employing low-input technology adapted to small-farming conditions. This means research into systems to protect against wind and water erosion as well as improved cultivation methods, but basically the integration of farming and stock-keeping which, in Africa, are traditionally separate systems. Finally it will be a question of altering certain behaviour patterns of the population and offering farmers corresponding incentives to produce for the market, for which the necessary infrastructure will also have to be provided.