A wheel to weed: Women Friendly Farm Tool
Premlata was tired. Her back hurt from all the weeding she had done last evening, squatting on her feet in her little patch of green. Pushing away thoughts of rest, she pulled her sari pallu tighter and got ready to go back to her vegetable field; she could not afford to wait for anyone or anything.
Her husband Rajesh had left three months before, moving to a neighbouring town in search of work and money. And their field was hers to run, to toil and to eke out some produce from. With no helping hands on the land, the physically demanding farm labour was adding to her woes. But the weeding had to be done on time; else her plants would soon be overrun and lost to this invading foe.
How she wished she didn’t have to sit on her heels for hours for so long, pulling out stubborn clumps of grass!
Her story is similar to that of many women farmers in this region. Holding onto their small piece of land and farming it successfully is becoming a greater challenge for them, day by day. Farming equipment available are built and designed for large farms, and are generally heavy and cumbersome for a woman to hold and run. And many of the men here have migrated to the cities and towns to look for a stable livelihood. Thus, running the farm here usually falls on a woman’s frail shoulders. More importantly, with limited incomes, paying for labour to work with borrowed or rented machinery eats into their profits, as well as keeps them dependent on an unreliable factor. These small patches of land turn even more difficult to run under such trying circumstances.
Tired and weary, she reached her land and she saw Manju in the adjoining field, walking merrily across her field, pushing a wheeled contraption in front of her. Excitedly Manju waved her over and showed off her new tool. It was a wheel hoe with a handle like a cycle for pushing. It had cutting blades attached to the sides and Manju proudly demonstrated how these allowed weeding while walking. “No need to bend and twist your back to weed anymore”, she gurgled.
Premlata looked in amazement. She recalled Manju talking earlier of going to meet the GEAG team who are implementing Core Support programme support by SEED division, Department of Science and Technology, New Delhi. Understanding the issues concerning the women farmers, this women-friendly weeding and hoeing tool had been developed by the team officials. Cheap, convenient and easy to wield, it is a labour saving device, made keeping the ergonomics specific to women in mind. Made with locally available resources, it consists of a cycle wheel with an iron frame handle. At the bottom of this frame, three V-shaped (bent inside) blades are attached with nut bolts. These blades are adjustable and can be replaced as per need or the distance between the two ridges in lined-sown crop. Apart from this, another blade to earth up potatoes can also be attached. Cutting and uprooting of weeds in the field is easily possible through a push and pull type action with this tool.
Premlata took a go at this new implement; it was so easy to use, just a simple as pushing a cycle wheel ahead of her. The effort required also so much lesser, and it was so very efficient! She seemed to be whizzing across her fields, pulling out the weeds with a precision and effort not imaginable before. At this rate her work would be done much, much quicker.
She is right; the capacity of this tool is 120 m2/hr/person. That means that with the help of this tool, a farmer; even a woman farmer can easily complete weeding/ hoeing activity in one acre of land in just 2 days. With traditional tools and in the previous manner, it would require a male farmer to work for 8-10 days to complete the same work in one acre of land. In terms of money, with the labour cost at Rs300 per day, it comes to Rs 600 when working with this tool. For the same task, earlier the land owner would have to pay anything between Rs 2,400- 3,000. From an economic point of view, too, this is beneficial for every farmer.
The tool does work more effectively in moist soil, usually 20-25 days after sowing and when weeds are around 1 to 3 cm in height. More ever, it is durable and does not require maintenance or regular repair cost. And for small, marginal farmers, especially the women folk, this is a boon.
Women like Premlata and Manju play a critical role in producing food, for their family and their livelihoods. And when life is made a little easier for them, courtesy the DST (Seed Division) Core Support programme, who with their acute interest have crafted this women friendly tool, they and their fields, both are all smiles. And, this wheel weeder sure brightens their smiles a little bit more.
This blog has been written by GEAG as part of the Core Support Project of the Science for Equity, Empowerment & Development (SEED) Division of Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Govt of India.