Cover Image
close this bookEnvironmentally Sound Technologies for Women in Agriculture (IIRR, 1996, 213 p.)
close this folderDrudgery reduction
View the documentDrudgery-reducing implements for farm women
View the documentFuel-efficient chulhas
View the documentSolar cookers
View the documentBiogas as a rural energy source
View the documentEfficient fuel energy utilisation

Drudgery-reducing implements for farm women

Women do many of the most difficult farm tasks in India. Transplanting, weeding, harvesting, and post-harvest processing of produce. All of these tasks are time-consuming and full of drudgery. Below are some improved implements and machinery which can help reduce drudgery and physical exertion

Weeding implements

Dryland weeder

This peg-type weeder is excellent for row crops on sandy and loamy soils. It can be operated easily by one person. When the weeder is pushed forward, the drum rotates through the soil and the curved blade cuts the roots of weeds. The weeder has a working width of 15 cm and can weed about 0.025 ha/hr.

Multipurpose weeder

This multipurpose weeder is especially useful on hilly terrain. The weeder's cutting edge can cut small bushes and the curved blade can be used for weeding between crop plants. Its designer says this veeder reducer drudgery by 25 to 30 percent compared to traditional hand hoeing on terraced or sloping land.

Rotary paddy weeder

This manual weeder is effective for light weeding in paddy fields. It can be operated easily by one person. The weeder is pushed and pulled, forward and back, continuously between paddy rows. The rotating blades go below the surface to cut and turn up weeds. It can weed about 0.025 ha/hr. This rotary weeder can be made using local skills and local materials.

Draw weeder

This weeder is best suited to dry areas. It consists of a toothed, double-edged blade attached to a long handle. The sharp-toothed blade cuts weeds just below the soil surface.

Draw weeder

V-blade hand hoe

This tool, designed for light weeding, consists of a long wooden or bamboo handle joined to a sharpened, V-shaped blade. The blade cuts through soil, cutting weeds just below the soil surface.

V-blade hand hoe

Post-harvest Implements

Tubular hand-held maize sheller

This tubular sheller consists of a 7-cm length o steel pipe, 6.25 cm in diameter, with four tapered fins of light sheet metal fitted inside. A, one end the space between fin tips is 26.5 mm, while at the other, the space is 39 mm. To operate, hold the sheller in one hand and insert a dry cob with the other hand. Twist them in opposite directions. The fins detach corn kernels from the cob at the rate of about 20 kg per hour.

Tubular hand-held maize sheller

Comb-type groundnut stripper

This manually operated machine detaches pods from groundnut vines. The machine consists of a rectangular frame with vertical pegs and a horizontal strip of expanded metal (used in wire fences) fixed on each side in the shape of a comb. Handfuls of groundnut vines are pulled across the comb with force. This strips pods from the vines at a rate of 200-300 kg of pods per hour, with four people working at the same time.

Drum-type groundnut stripper

This stripper removes groundnut pods from green vines. It can be operated easily by one person and is quite effective in minimizing postharvest losses. The device consists of a hollow drum constructed from two metal disks connected by metal rods covered by rubber tubing. The operator cranks the drum handle and beats the groundnut vines on the rotating drum rods. A framed canvas hood keeps pods from scattering. (Canvas hood not shown in illustration at left.)

Revolving drum

Hand-operated grain cleaner

Used for removing foreign matter from Bengal gram, wheat, and soybean. This device consists of two metal screens in a frame suspended by rope. About 10 kg of grain is fed into the sieve and the cradle-like cleaner is swung briskly back and forth. Grains fall through the screen but debris remains. The cleaned grain is sieved again to remove finer debris.

Hand-operated grain cleaner


Suspend the cleaner from a sturdy tripod or beam.

Harvesting implements

Naveen sickle

This sickle is best suited for harvesting wheat and rice crops. It has a wooden handle with a special hand grip shaped to make harvesting easier. The sickle blade, made of serrated carbon steel, is riveted to a 12-mm wide, Ushaped strip which is fixed to the handle. Ten women using naveen sickles can harvest I ha in 1 0 hours.


The khurpa-cum-sickle is a weeder, a hoe, and cutter all in one. The blade is made of carbon steel sheet. The front edge is used for weeding and hoeing, while the side edge is cured and serrated to cut like a sickle. The serrated edge has a cured length of 12 cm, which is about 60 percent of the length of a normal sickle. The handle is made of seasoned seesam wood. The tool weighs 300 g, light enough for continuous use.

Sources of drudgery-reducing implements

Comb-type groundnut stripper

Hand-operated grain cleaner

Draw weeder

Naveen sickle

Drum-type groundnut stripper

Tubular hand-held maize sheller

Dryland weeder

Central Institute of Agricultural

V-blade hand hoe

Engineering (ICAR)

College of Agricultural Engineering

Shri Guru Teg Bahadur Complex

Tamil Nadu Agricultural University

Bhopal 462003

Coimbatore 641003

Madhya Pradesh, India

Tamil Nadu, India

Multipurpose weeder


ICAR Research Complex

Division of Agri. Engineering

North-Eastern Hilis Region

Indian Agricultural Research Institute

Shillong 793003

Pusa, New Delhi 110012, India

Meghalaya, India
Rotary paddy weeder
M.P. State Department of Agriculture
Bhopal 462001
Madhya Pradesh, India

Source: Centre of Science for Villages, Wardha, Dr. H. S. Biswas, and Dr. M. M. Pandey

Fuel-efficient chulhas

Advantages of fuel efficient chulhas

- Use less fuel
- Reduce fuel collection time
- Reduce cooking time
- Produce less smoke
- Conserve trees
- Allow more dung to be used as fertilizer instead of fuel
- Provide work for local chulha makers

Millions of women in developing countries spend hours each day gathering fuel and still more hours feeding inefficient, smokey chulhas. These ovens harm women's health, add to women's work load, and contribute to deforestation. To combat this problem, many fuel-efficient ovens have been designed and promoted over the years. These improved chulhas all have something in common: they are scientifically designed for better heat flow, which means that maximum heat is taken from the fuel and directed at the cooking pots.


Many different models of improved chulhas are available:

- Pottery-lined mud chulha with or without chimney
- Portable metal chulha
- Portable ceramic-lined metal chulha
- Portable chulha with separate hood chimney
- Pottery-lined chulha without chimney

Portable metal chulha

Portable ceramic-lined metal chulha


Improved chulhas are installed by specially trained, selfemployed chulha makers. Customers are helped to choose the right chulha to meet their needs-depending on family size, kitchen location, type of fuel to be used. Normally, chimneys are recommended for closed, poorly ventilated areas.


Chulhas are normally made from locally available materials. But, depending on the chulha's size and design-whether the chulha includes a chimney pipe, smoke hood, ceramic or metal components-and taking into account installation charge and available subsidies, an improved chulha can cost from R15 to R150.

If you are interested in having a fuel-efficient improved chulha, contact the block development officer in your area.

Contributor: Mr. S. K. Jagwani

Solar cookers

Households can save money, save labour, and preserve the environment by using the free energy of the sun to cook food. About 60 percent of energy used in rural areas in India is used for cooking. This comes from fuelwood, agricultural waste, animal dung, coal, and kerosene. Aside from the cost of these fuels and the long hours spent collecting them, there is also an environmental cost Demand for fuelwood, for instance, is causing deforestation which leads to floods and erosion.

Why buy a solar cooker?

- Savings-solar cookers use no fuel and are cheap to maintain
- Safety-no fires, no electric shocks, no gas leaks
- Time-saving-cook four items at a time
- Convenience-very little attention is required
- Simplicity-solar cookers are simple to use
- Nutrition-solar cooking preserves the nutritive value of food
- Flavour-food is cooked slowly so flavour is retained
- Cleanliness-no smoke and no soot


Solar cookers do not work well in early morning, late afternoon, or on cloudy days.

Parts of the solar cooker

There are six main parts to a solar cooker

1 Outer box-made of galvanized iron or aluminium.

2 Inner cooking tray-made of sheet aluminium painted black to absorb the sun's radiation

3 Double glass lid-with a 1-cm air space between the sheets of glass for insulation and a rubber gasket to prevent heat leakage

4 Thermal insulating material- such as glass wool, packed between the outer box and the inner tray

5 Mirror-fixed on the inside of the outer box lid to focus the sun's rays on the cooking containers and cooking tray

6 Cooking containers (with covers)

-of aluminium or stainless steel, painted black on the outside to absorb the sun's radiation

How to use a solar cooker

1 Keep the solar cooker in the open in direct sunlight for at least 45 minutes before loading it with cooking pots. This will reduce the cooking time.

2 From time to time, adjust the position of the cooker and mirror to focus the sun's rays on the cooking pots and cooking tray.

3 Open the glass lid of the solar cooker, place the cooking pots inside and close the lid. As much as possible, keep the lid closed. Opening the lid will cause heat to escape and prolong cooking time.


- When cooking is complete, leave the lid open for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the pots to cool down.
- Use cloth potholders when removing pots from the cooker.
- When opening the cooker's glass lid, keep your face and body away to avoid steam burn.


- The outside of the pots and the surface of the inner tray should be painted black from time to time. Avoid scratching the paint.

- When cooking is complete, clean the cooker with a dry cloth. Wipe both sides of the double glass lid and mirror with a soft clean duster before and after using the cooker.

Useful tips

- Cut vegetables into small pieces before cooking.

- Softer cereals and pulses in water before cooking.

- Do not overfill the pots (ingredients and cooking water combined should about reach the middle of the pot).

- Keep containers covered while cooking.

- Before roasting, grease the pot and smear the food with oil. Leave the pot lid off.

- Spices should be added before and after cooking, but not during cooking. Frequent opening of the glass cooker lid and pot lids will result in heat loss and prolonged cooking time.

- Keep the cooking tray and pots painted black.

- To avoid scratching the black paint, remove cooking pots before transporting the cooker.

- Store the cooker closed, in a safe, sheltered place.

Recipes for solar cooker

Alu Methi


250 g small potatoes

salt, chillies, and

(diced into small pieces)

turmeric powder to

100 g fresh methi

taste and 11/2 tbs

groundnut oil


1 Before cooking, clean and cut the methi leaves, apply salt, and leave for one hour.
2 Subsequently, squeeze the water from methi and wash it thoroughly in a strainer.
3 Heat oil and put turmeric powder and chillies in it.
4 Add potatoes and salt, place it in the pot and put it in solar cooker for about 30 minutes.
5 Add methi, uncover the pot, and leave for about 30 minutes.



200 g cauliflower

salt, turmeric, and

1/2 inch piece of ginger

chillies to taste

1/2 tsp jeera

2 tbs oil

1 tomato


1 Cut cauliflower into small pieces.

2 Heat oil and put in jeera, turmeric powder, chillies, salt, and cauliflower.

3 Pour it into a pot, cover, and place it in the cooker.

4 After about 30 minutes, cut the tomato and add it to the pot. Cook for another 30 minutes.
Chicken curry


250 g chicken
1 onion
1 tomato garlic, ginger, dhania powder, jeera powder, chillies, salt and pepper for seasoning
2 tbs oil
1/2 cup (lukewarm) water
1 peeled and finely cut potato
1 tomato either grated or blanched for seasoning and mashed.


1 Mix all the ingredients, except the tomato, and place in a covered pot in the solar cooker for about 40 minutes.

2 Add the tomato.

3 Remove after 10-15 minutes. Mix thoroughly, pass through a sieve, and serve.

Chutney fish


1 pomfret 7-8 cloves garlic half lemon
1/4 tsp turmeric powder salt
2 green chillies coriander leaves, coconut, and roasted gram 1 tbs oil.


1 Clean the fish and make gashes on both sides and smear with salt.

2 Grind garlic, coriander leaves, coconut, roasted gram, chillies, turmeric powder, and salt into a "chutney".

3 Add lemon juice.

4 Cover fish with this chutney and put it in a greased pot or on a greased griddle.

5 Do not cover the container. Place it in solar cooker for about 40 minutes


Remember to preheat for at least 45 minutes.


If mustard fish is to be made, the fish pieces should be marinated in a ground paste of 10 g mustard seeds, 6 green chillies, salt and oil. After marination for 30 minutes, the fish should be kept in the solar cooker uncovered for about 30 minutes.


150 g arhar dal
350 ml water
10 g ghee
I l/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp haldi powder
1/4 tsp red chill) powder
1/2 tsp garam masala


1 Pick, wash, and soak for an hour a measured amount of dal.
2 Mix water, dal, ghee, salt, red chill), and haldi powder in the cooking pot.
3 Cover with a lid and keep it in the preheated solar cooker for 30 minutes.
4 When cooked, garnish with garam masala.

Masala chicken

Ingredients 500 g chicken (cut into eight pieces) 250 g onion I pod garlic 1/2 inch piece of ginger 3 tomatoes 1/2 tsp each of dhania powder and jeera powder, salt, turmeric powder and chillies to taste 2 the oil and I lemon


1 Wash the chicken and smear it with salt, turmeric powder, and lemon juice. Leave aside for 30 minutes.

2 Grind onion, garlic, and ginger into a paste and fry in oil until the oil starts leaving the sides of the vessel.

3 Add jeera powder, dhania powder, salt, chillies, and turmeric powder.

4 Place chicken in the solar cooker container and pour the cooked masala on top.

5 Add sliced tomatoes.

6 Leave it in the solar cooker for about 40 minutes.

Plain rice

1 cup rice
2 cups lukewarm water


1 Wash and soak the rice for 1 5 minutes.
2 Put the rice and water in the cooking pot.
3 Put the covered pot in the solar cooker for about 40 minutes.

Rice and Dal Khichri



1 cup rice

1 Wash and soak rice and dal together for 60 minutes. Drain.

3 cups water

2 Heat oil and fly ginger, pepper, and jeera lightly.

¼ cups moong

3 Add rice and dal and put it into a dish. Add lukewarm water. Add salt to taste.


4 Cover it and leave it in the cooker for about 30 minutes.

a small piece

5 Stir it and leave it in solar cooker for another30 minutes.

of finely cut

ginger, jera,

salt, and

pepper for


1 tbs ghee

Biogas as a rural energy source


Biogas contains 55-75 percent methane, plus hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulphide. The percentage of inflammable methane gas depends on the raw material used to make the biogas.

Biogas is a mixture of gases produced by the chemical decomposition of organic material such as animal dung. Consider installing a biogas plant. Animal dung, human waste, and waste plant material can be converted to clean, cheap fuel for cooking and lighting. And, the byproduct is good fertilizer. Biogas plants, also known as digesters or Gobar gas plants, can be installed to meet the needs of individual families on very small sites (3 m x 2 m), or for groups of several families.

Benefits of biogas plants

Raw materials

- Animal wastes, such as dung of cows, elephants, horses, goats, poultry, and pigs
- Plant wastes, such as husks, straw, dry leaves, weeds, vegetable skins
- Human excrete
- Industrial and domestic wastes, such as billow dust, pulp mill effluent, fruit and vegetable wastes

How it works

The main parts of a biogas plant are the digester, mixing pit, inlet and outlet pipes, outlet tank, gas holder, and gas pipe.

1 Organic material and water are mixed thoroughly in a mixing pit.

2 The mixture flows through the inlet pipe into the digester tank.

3 As the organic material decomposes (in the absence of oxygen), biogas is produced.

4 Gas collects in the gas holder. This gas can be used for fuel.

5 Decomposed material in the digester becomes light. It passes through the outlet pipe to the outlet tank. The material is good quality manure, rich in nitrogen and phosphorus.

Diagram of biogas plant (not to scale), showing the main features.


The size of your biogas plant should depend on your family's fuel requirements, and the availability of dung and other organic material. The table below will help determine the right size biogas plant for your homestead.

Capacity of plant (gas production per day in m3)

Daily requirement of dung (kg)

Approximate number of cattle required for

Cooking for num ber of persons

















Community-size biogas plants are also available which can serve the needs of several families.

Site selection

- Install the biogas plant on an elevated, open, and dry site which is exposed to sunshine most of the day.

- It should be near the kitchen and the animal sheds.

- The groundwater level should be at least two metres below the surface.

- The biogas plant must be at least 15 metres away from drinking water wells and hand pumps.

- Where the sanitary latrine is linked to the biogas plant, the water seal of the latrine must be at least 30 centimeters above the upper level of the biogas plant's slurry outlet pipe.

Cost of installation

The cost of installation depends on the type and size of plant installed. The table below shows the approximate cost of installation of various models at various capacities (assuming a 40-day retention period):

Capacity of plant (m')

KVIC1 model

Deenbandhu model

Pragati model

















1 Khadi and Village Industries Corporation

The national government provides facilities for promotion, construction, service, and repair of biogas plants. Substantial subsidies are also available through the National Programme on Biogas Development. As well, both commercial and cooperative banks provide credit, without land mortgage, for installation of family-size biogas plants. Repayment periods range between 5 and 7 years.


Biogas plants are installed by self-employed workers specially trained in the construction, installation, maintenance, and repair of biogas plants.

For more information contact the block development office in your area.

Contributor: Mr. S. K. Jagwani

Efficient fuel energy utilisation

Energy for cooking is a basic requirement of daily life. Women in rural areas must travel long distances to collect fuel for cooking. Then they spend long hours cooking in smoke-filled kitchens. Here are some ways to make best use of fuel and minimize cooking time.

Proper pots

- Use round-bottomed pots on wood-burning chulhas. More heat can be transferred to these as compared to flatbottomed pots.

- The diameter of the pot must be 1.5- to 2-times bigger than the diameter of the chulha opening.

- Clean the pot bottom before use.

Fuel-saving cooking techniques

- Cook with the minimum quantity of water. If more water is required during cooking, add hot water if possible.

- Keep the pot or pan covered with a plate or pot lid while cooking.

- Soak pulses, rice, etc., in water for at least half an hour before cooking. Hard-coated legumes, such as lima beans, gram, and cowpea, should be soaked overnight.

- Do not allow flames to come out the chulha's fire door.

- When cooking is complete, quickly remove unused fuel from the fire chamber and douse the fuel with water. This wet fuel can be sun-dried and used again.

Remember to cover your pot.

Smart fuel use

- Chop wood into small pieces, about 3 cm x 5 cm x 10 cm.
- Do not over-feed the fire. Flames should not escape the fire box. This is a waste of fuel.
- Use dry fuel. Otherwise, energy is wasted removing moisture when the fuel is burned.

Place wood pieces at angles across the grate (if the chulha has a grate) to allow air circulation.

Stack wood pieces across each other for better circulation.

If you are using long fuel sticks which protrude from the fire box, keep them horizontal or tilted toward the centre of the grate by propping up their outside ends with a brick.

When using light fuels such as twigs and straw along with wood, bum the wood first to achieve a high temperature. Add the light fuels next for their good combustion.

Dung should be used for composting. However, if some part of your dung must be used for fuel, prepare fuel rods by coating dung over long sticks. After they are dried in the sun, these fuel rods burn more efficiently and produce less smoke than either wood or dung burned separately.

Producing fuel rods with dung and sticks