Partnership Brings New Technology to Smallholder Farmers in Ghana

For Immediate Release:

 

Partnership Brings New Technology to Smallholder Farmers in Ghana

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Soybean Value Chain Research (Soybean Innovation Lab, SIL) in partnership with the Feed the Future USAID Agriculture Technology Transfer (ATT) project and the Agricultural Development and Value Chain Enhancement (ADVANCE) project will fund an 8-day training to teach local blacksmiths how to fabricate small-scale crop threshers for use in Northern Ghana.

The Soybean Innovation Lab researcher and University of Missouri soybean specialist Kerry Clark piloted the training in an effort to bring affordable, locally mass producible soybean threshers to smallholder farmers in Northern Ghana. Earlier this year, Clark initiated a thresher design contest which brought design submissions from both African and American university engineering students. Using the winning drawings and input from the contest judges at ALMACO, a leading U.S. manufacturer of agricultural research equipment, Clark’s team developed a low-cost small-scale thresher design.

“We hope that bringing inexpensive, locally made threshers to communities will bring about an increase in soybean production and a reduction in the labor that goes into a manual crop harvest. Nutrition will improve for smallholder farmers when they have additional harvest that their families can consume,” said Clark.

The 8-day training, taking place in August 2016 at the Tamale Implement Factory, will teach design and fabrication of crop threshers to 12 community-oriented blacksmiths from Upper East and Upper West, and Northern Ghana and the Tamale Implement Factory. The blacksmiths will construct three threshers to be distributed to three villages in Northern Ghana.

“These locally fabricated threshers will be produced cheaper than imported machines and the gained fabrication expertise will provide a knowledgeable workforce for thresher maintenance and repair. Widespread availability of threshers at lower costs will allow more smallholder farmers to access an important new technology, reduce workload and harvest drudgery, and allow for easier scale-up of production agriculture,” Clark said.

Gabriel Abdulai, an engineer with the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) will lead the training with valuable input from fabricators at the Tamale Implement Factory.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) designed a program for village-level thresher introduction, usage and upkeep to ensure future sustainability and selected the blacksmiths to participate. Catholic Relief Services will work with the blacksmiths from the three regions to identify and organize a customer base for the threshers.

The blacksmiths from the Upper West region were identified by Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) who work with 10,000 women in MEDA’s Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) program. MEDA and their collaborators designed and organized women-led cooperative groups that will be able to finance the purchase of threshers fabricated by Upper West blacksmiths.

“It’s our belief that locally made threshers will help the economy of Ghana by creating new business opportunities and by making farming more efficient. Training people who cannot only fabricate threshers, but who can also maintain and fix them is important for their success. Positioning the Tamale Implement Factory as the epicenter of thresher production and knowledge will help grow this local industry,” said Clark.

The funding provided by the Feed the Future USAID Agriculture Technology Transfer (ATT) project and the Agricultural Development and Value Chain Enhancement (ADVANCE) project enables the Soybean Innovation Lab to create a sustainable train-the-trainer model to empower local blacksmiths and manufacturers to share the knowledge and skills needed to ensure continued local production of the threshers.

The Soybean Innovation Lab is USAID’s only comprehensive program dedicated to soybean research for development. An international team of tropical soybean experts provides technical support to practitioners tasked with soybean development, including private sector firms, NGOs, extensionists, agronomists and the National Agricultural Research System. To learn more about the Soybean Innovation Lab, visit their website, soybeaninnovationlab.illinois.edu.

A high resolution photo to be used with the story, can be downloaded here:

http://goo.gl/HiQjPy

Photo Caption: This portable threshing machine was constructed by a local blacksmith in Northern Ghana. During the 8-day training, local blacksmiths will fabricate three threshers with a similar design. (Photo Credit: Kerry Clark)

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