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close this bookBetter Farming Series 14 - Farming with Animal Power (FAO - INADES, 1977, 57 p.)
close this folderChoosing and preparing fields
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentSize and shape of fields
View the documentMarking the boundaries of a field
View the documentGrub out all the trees in the field
View the documentGet permission to farm for a long time


Choose land where plants grow well; if you see tall herbage, the land there is good.

If you can, choose fields near your house, so as not to lose time getting there and back. All the time spent getting to and for is time lost on the fields.

Size and shape of fields

The fields should be big, and especially they should be very long.

If a field is very short, you lose a lot of time turning the oxen at the end of the field. You get more tired turning the plough.

The fields should have a regular shape; they should be rectangles. That shape makes it easier to plough, to sow in rows, to hoe and cultivate.

If you must have several fields, make them as close to each other as possible, so as not to lose time getting from one to the other with the animals and tools.

Marking the boundaries of a field

A good field must have its proper boundaries. Before preparing your field, mark out its boundaries.

You will need to know how to measure your field.

Example: You want to make a field of 1 hectare.

Field of 1 hectare

This field should be either square or rectangular. This means that its corners must be right angles.

How to make a right angle

The corner of a is book let is a right angle.

Measure 4 metres along side OA and 3 metres along side OB.

Now the length of AB should be 5 metres.

Right angle

Why make a field with right- angled corners?

It is easy to calculate the area of such a field.

You can reckon better the density of sowing (see Booklet No. 1, page 26).

You know how much fertilizer to apply.

You know whether the field yields a good or a poor harvest.

· It is easier to till with animals.


To calculate the area of a field with right angles at the corners, multiply the length by the width of the field.

Example: a field is 100 metres long and 100 metres wide; its area is 100 x 100 = 10000 square metres (m²).

A square metre is a square measuring 1 metre in length and 1 metre in width.

One hectare = 10 000 m²

Example: a field is 200 metres long and 50 metres wide; its area is 200 x 50 = 10 000 m² . It is aIso 1 hectare.

A field

Two fields of 1 hectare

A field which is 71 metres long and 71 metres wide has an area of 71 x 71 = 5 041 m²,

A field which is 100 metres long and 50 metres wide has an area of 100 x 50 = 5 000 m²

These are both fields of half a hectare.

In order to work with animal power:

Grub out all the trees in the field

You cannot use animal power on fields with tree stumps.

You must grub out the tree stumps so as not to break your tools (see Booklet No. 6, page 21).

This requires a lot of work, but once it is done, it is done for good.

It does not have to be done again every year.

Each year grub out the tree' on a part of the field.

At the end of two or three years the whole field is cleared.

In savanna country you need 120 working days to clear a hectare and grub out the tree stumps.

Do this during the dry season when there is not too much other work.

Get permission to farm for a long time

Before grubbing out the trees, ask the land authorities for permission to farm the field for a very long time, so as to get the benefit of your work.

· Choose the right crops and rotation

When you use animal power, you must include fodder for the animals in your crop rotation (see Booklet No. 5, page 27).

For example:
Grow a fallow crop (see Booklet No. 5, page 23) and cereals such as rice or maize or sorghum as supplementary feeds (see Booklet No. 8, page 14).

Grow more cash crops such as cotton or groundnuts. With the extra money earned, pay off the cost of the oxen and the tools.

After the cash crops, raise food crops for your family.

The food crops will benefit from the remains of the fertilizers used on the cash crops. The harvest will be better. You will get enough food for your family from a smaller field.
Using animal power means you have to use a good crop rotation.