DRAUGHT ANIMAL POWER IN AFRICA
development, research and liaison
Farming Systems Support Project
Institute of Food and
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida 32611
Office of Agriculture and
Office of Multisectoral Development
Bureau for Science and Technology
Agency for International Development
Washingtorr, D.C. 20523
NETWORKING PAPER NO. 14
DRATUGHT ANI1CJ AL POWER IN AFRIICA
PrioritXie s Jfor
development, research and liaison
ConsJultant in Aniimal Traction
0 P. H. Starkey, Specialist in Anima Traction, 0
0 2 Wychuod Cresent, Earley, Reading RG6 2RA, U.K. 0
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. SUL ARY ........................................................ 1
2. BACKGROUND .................. ....................................3
2.1. Introduction and agricultural context........................ 3
2.2. An historical perspective.................................4
2.3. A geographical and numerical perspective .................... 6
2.4. The range of operations...................................... 8
3. PRECONDITIONS FOR SUCCESSFUL USE OF DRAUGHT ANIMAL POWER......10
3.1. General.................... ........... ........ .............. 10
3.2. Land and Population....................................... 10
3.3. Labour .................................................. ... 10
3.4. Availability of adapted animals............................11
3.5. Existence of adapted cultivation systems.................. 11
3.6. Market for produce........................................ ...... 12
3.7. Socio-cultural factors................................... 12
3.8. Knowledge .................. .......................12
3.9. Financial Resources .................................... 12
3.10. Provision of Services................................. 13
4. IMPLICATIONS FOR MINISTRIES AND DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS .......... 15
5. IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT STUDIES.............17
5.1. Methodology .......................................... -.... 17
6. IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH TOPICS .................... .......... 21
6.1. General ................. .............. .................... .21
6.2. Animals........................................... ........ 21
6.3. Nutrition.......................... ..............21
6.4. Animal health................................................22
6.5. Equipment ................................ ........... ....... 23
6.6. Harnessing ............ .................................. 25
6.7. Diversification of operations ..............................25
6.8. Social and Economic Factors.................................27
7. STRATEGIES FOR MPLEMENTATION.................................28
7.1. General..... ................ ...... ......... ............. .. 28
7.2. The role of national programmes.......................... 28
7.3. Study tours and workshops............................ ....29
7.4. Role of aid agencies ...................................... 30
7.5. The role of international research organizations............31
7.6. The role of newsletters.....................................31
7.7. Establishment of a draught animal power network ............32
8. REFERENCES................................... ...... ......... .33
Networking Papers are intended to inform colleagues about farming
systems research and extension work in progress, and to facilitate the
timely distribution of information of interest to farming systems
practitioners throughout the world. The series is also intended to
invite response from the farming systems network to help advance FSR/E
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receive each Networking Paper.
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Draught animal power can be an appropriate, sustainable technology for
intensifying agriculture and raising the living standard of small holder
farmers in Africa. In Ethiopia farmers have used draught animals for
centuries, and 6 million work oxen are now employed. Elsewhere animal
traction technology has been introduced this century, and about 7 million
draught animals are used by 10-20% of farmers. In most areas work animals
are used only for ploughing and some transport. Regional and national
figures disguise large variations in the pattern of adoption of animal
traction, associated with its overall profitability and the availability of
government or commercial supporting services. Between 1940 and 1970, the
technology was often regarded by authorities as old fashioned, but now
draught animals are being actively promoted in most African countries.
Preconditions for the success of draught animal power include suitable
land, agroclimate, population density and labour deployment, the
availability of adapted animals and cultivation systems, farmer knowledge,
socio-cultural acceptance, capital or credit, and a profitable balance of
input costs and resulting benefits. Key services are also required
including equipment supply and repair, animal health, training, extension,
research and development. All these may be supplied by the private sector
(traditional or modern) when the technology is intrinsically profitable.
Before promoting draught animal power, ministries and development projects
should appraise the farming systems to identify whether animal traction is
profitable and what are the specific limiting factors. In the event of
intrinsic profitability, development and research initiatives could be left
to the private sector. However strategic interventions could accelerate
progress, and these should be prioritized to ameliorate the specific
factors limiting overall profitability. In the event of socio-economic
non-profitability, draught animal power will not develop without
interventions. If a policy of promotion is chosen, possible actions should
be carefully prioritized to ensure they address the limiting factors.
Research is one of several service interventions with significant cost
implications, and it should also be prioritized and concentrate on
alleviating the crucial factors limiting overall profitability.
Much past research had little impact because it did not address the key
limiting factors in the local farming systems. Programmes have produced
equipment, breeds or nutritional supplements which were technically good,
but of little relevance being unaffordable or unsustainable by the farmers.
Research should be multi-disciplinary and carried out with farmers, who may
be useful as consultants in planning, implementing and interpreting
research. Economic realism is essential. Data collected should reflect
parameters important to farmers and farmers' own assessments may be
valuable. Researchers should review comparable experience elsewhere before
implementing a programme.
Local priorities for farming systems and component research should be
clearly defined through consultation with the farmers in the target areas
and should follow multi-disciplinary discussion. The unifying theme should
be overall, sustainable socio-economic benefits. In many areas, small farm
profitability is marginal, and so research on new breeds and crossbreeds
is unlikely to be a priority. In such cases, emphasis should be on low
cost systems of reducing environmental constraints (e.g. nutrition and
health) affecting indigenous breeds. Nutritional work should emphasize low
cost modifications to existing farming systems, such as legume trees
(agroforestry) and health studies should aim to identify causes and
solutions in areas where high animal mortality is constraining otherwise
successful animal traction programmes. Agricultural engineers should be
aware of the large number of previous studies, and should emphasize
low-cost and sustainable designs for operations that farmers consider to be
economically most important. Harnessing is seldom a limiting factor.
Farmer-orientated research should also aim to improve overall profitability
through expansion and diversification of operations. These may include
weeding, transport, post harvest work and the cultivation of new crops.
Research should not ignore social considerations, such as the roles of
women and children in using, managing and benefiting from draught animals.
The key to identifying and removing constraints lies with national
programmes. These could be made more efficient through improved national
and international liaison. Improved within-country information exchange
would allow feedback from farmers to influence national decision making
relating to draught animal power development and research. It would also
allow proven techniques from elsewhere to be rapidly disseminated. Liaison
between countries can be improved by workshops, reciprocal training and
study tours, which benefit both sending and recipient countries.
Newsletters could be extremely valuable. provided circulation is adequate
and information is appropriately presented.
Aid agencies should support national programmes and sponsor liaison
activities. Great benefits could be achieved if agencies promoted
information exchange between the projects they support in different
countries. International research centres, and organizations in developed
countries should provide appropriate technical advice and training for
national research programmes, and assist in information dissemination.
They could do much by reviewing and disseminating the results of past
research and development in Africa, with analyses of the impact of research
on the farmers, and the lessons learned. Topics for research programmes
should be chosen on the basis of priority constraints in consultation with
national programmes. While research techniques need not be simple, the
research must be realistic and farmer orientated, with the objective of
affordable, sustainable technology.
Improved information exchange is a priority, and one means to achieve this
would be the development of a formal or informal network. This would
assist organizations to build on each others' experience, and thus benefit
farmers using draught animal power in Africa.
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2.1. Introduction and agricultural context
It is the traditional smallholder farmers of Africa who produce the bulk of
the agricultural output of the continent. The smallholder agricultural
sector provides the livelihood for most of the people in rural areas, and
it is generally recognized that this sector will continue to dominate
African agriculture in the coming decades. However with a growing human
population and rising economic aspirations combined with the urgent need to
achieve food self-sufficiency, it is evident that agricultural production
must rise. This is likely to require a steady expansion in the area of
land cultivated, combined with an intensification of production systems,
using technologies that both conserve the environment and provide a more
rewarding livelihood for the smallholder farmer. At present the majority
of the energy used for agricultural production comes from human labour.
Unfortunately, the high capital cost of imported machinery, combined with
the severe foreign exchange burden imposed by fossil fuels, suggests that
it will be a long time before aspirations to fully mechanized agriculture
can be met in much of Africa. Thus, the smallholder sector will be
depending largely on human and renewable sources of energy for many years
to come, and one particularly appropriate source of renewable energy is the
power provided by draught animals.
Draught animals, whether cattle, horses, donkeys or camels, generally
represent indigenous power sources that make use of local grazing, browse
or crop residues, to provide energy for crop cultivation, transport and
other operations. The use of draught animals in farming involves an
integration of crop and livestock production, with widespread benefits
being realized through the use of organic manure and an improvement in
overall animal husbandry standards. The use of animals for crop
production, post-harvest operations and rural transport can increase the
efficiency of human labour utilization, while simultaneously reducing the
drudgery of men, women and children. These benefits can be translated into
increases in land area cultivated, greater crop yields per unit area, and a
rise in living standards for the rural population. Therefore an expanded
or more efficient use of animal traction may offer African governments and
farmers substantial opportunities to intensify farming methods, increase
food production and reduce agricultural drudgery through the effective use
of existing rural resources.
However, while animal traction itself may seem an intrinsically simple
technology, it has to be viewed as one component of highly complex farming
systems. Interactions within such systems involve not only the soils,
crops and animals, but also the prevailing ecological, social and economic
conditions. Where an appropriate combination of farmer knowledge, farmer
resources and environmental preconditions exist, the development and
adoption of efficient animal traction technology should be relatively
straightforward. However, in less utopian circumstances, governments and
development agencies may be required to intervene to help create the
appropriate conditions. Indeed, throughout Africa, agricultural ministries
and projects are actively promoting draught animal power, and the use of
animal traction is increasing in most countries. While historically animal
traction had been a somewhat neglected technology, there are now
significant national and international resources being devoted to this
area. Nevertheless, recent programmes have not always been successful, and
there is a clear need for an appraisal of the prerequisites for successful
animal traction in Africa. There is also a need to evaluate previous
research and development initiatives, in order to incorporate the lessons
learned into new programmes. Most importantly, there is a need to share
experience, in order that future research and development projects can
build on the substantial knowledge that has been gained in numerous
separate research, extension and development projects in Africa.
The use of draught animals in Africa has already been the subject of
several useful reviews, including CEEMAT/FAO (1972), ILCA (1981), Munzinger
(1982) and Pingali, Bigot and Binswanger (1986). This present paper aims
to examine some of the key constraints to draught animal power in Africa,
and some of the lessons learned in national research and development
programmes. It attempts to define some general strategies for research and
development, and provide some suggestions on topics that should or should
not receive priority in resource allocation. This study draws on the
experience of several years of directing a draught animal programme in
Sierra Leone, a review of available literature, and visits to draught
animal programmes in many African countries. Some of these visits were
undertaken as part of a joint FAO/ILCA initiative to develop a network of
organizations involved in draught animal power research, training and
development in Africa (Imboden, Starkey and Goe, 1983; Starkey and Goe,
1984; Starkey and Goe, 1985).
The great diversity of Africa, geographically, ecologically, socially,
economically and politically makes meaningful generalization very
difficult. Even within countries, there can be a great range of conditions,
making general statements concerning animal traction in just one country
fraught with problems. Yet there is a need to draw together experience from
widely different farming systems. Thus while the danger of generalization
and simplification is acknowledged from the outset, it is hoped that this
will be offset by the enhanced understanding that can come from an
2.2. An historical perspective
It is helpful to consider briefly the history of draught animal power in
Africa, as this assists an understanding of some of the present
constraints. In Ethiopia, the Nile Valley and North Africa, draught
animals have been very widely used for centuries, and in many ways the well
proven systems of utilization found today differ little from those used
long ago. In these countries the ploughs, or ards, are made by village
artisans and can be maintained in the villages. Apart from exceptional
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needs resulting from droughts or resettlement, government services are not
normally required to sustain animal traction technology. Naturally, the
training of animals is carried out by farmers, and transactions relating to
implement and animal ownership involve mainly traditional sources of
capital and credit. Pack animals are also common in Ethiopia and northern
Africa, and in several other parts of Africa, different cultures have
traditionally used animals for carrying people or goods. However in most
African countries the use of draught animal power for crop cultivation is
less than a century old.
In the nineteenth century, animal traction was widespread throughout
Europe, and animal drawn carts and in some cases ploughs were used by
colonizing forces, traders, missionaries and settlers in many parts of
Africa, including Botswana, Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal and South Africa.
In Madagascar and Botswana, the use of ploughs diffused rapidly, so that by
the beginning of the present century, ploughing with animals had become a
standard practice.for smallholder farmers in these countries (Pingali et
Many attempts at the systematic introduction of animal traction for crop
production took place between 1905 and 1945, with a clear emphasis on
export crop stimulation. In many parts of francophone West Africa,
including Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal,
private companies provided all the training, extension, credit and
equipment necessary to allow very rapid rates of adoption of draught
animals for cotton and groundnut production (Sargent, Lichte, Matlon and
Bloom, 1981). Similar rapid and very localized expansion was seen in parts
of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, also associated with cotton production
(Pingali et al., 1986).
Thus by the time of the second world war, animal traction was well
established in Botswana and Madagascar, and widely used in many specific,
and limited areas within all the African subregions. At this time most of
Africa was under European administration, and it is important to understand
the dramatic changes that were occurring in European agriculture at this
time, as these directly or indirectly influenced policies in Africa for the
subsequent three decades, including the period immediately following the
emergence of new, independent states. In Great Britain, there were 11
million draught horses in use in 1910, but as tractor power developed this
fell to 650,000 in 1940 and 370,000 in 1965. In France in 1940, there were
2 million draught cattle and 1.8 million work horses, but by 1965, this had
dropped to 100,000 working cattle and 730,000 draught horses (Binswanger,
1984). Clearly, in European agriculture, animal traction was becoming an
outmoded technology, and the universities and agricultural colleges
naturally emphasized the new forms of mechanization and neglected animal
traction. This had two major consequences. Firstly during the 1950s,
1960s and 1970s there were numerous attempts to introduce tractorization
schemes in Africa, often with disastrous economic and ecological
consequences. Secondly, a whole generation of African educators and
decision makers, had been educated in an environment (whether in Africa or
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Europe) in which it was generally assumed that animal traction was old
fashioned and of purely historical interest. Thus, in the pre- and
post-independence period, very many national policy decisions in
agriculture were taken by people who considered animal traction as, to
quote one West African university lecturer, "a U-turn back to the stone
By the 1970s, most countries had recorded failures in over-ambitious
tractorization schemes (Pingali et al., 1986). Fuel-crises were followed
by chronic foreign exchange problems. Agricultural planners and donor
agencies realized that the majority of the farmers in Africa still used
hand cultivation techniques, and in most countries there grew a new
interest in stimulating the development of animal traction. Interest of
national authorities was complemented by donor support, particularly after
some highly publicised droughts, and multi-lateral and bilateral aid
projects proliferated (Sargent et al., 1981). While during the 1970s,
animal traction had been such a neglected area that few governments had
kept statistics (FAO, 1982), by 1985 in almost all countries in Africa
animal traction was being encouraged by government departments, parastatal
organizations, major aid projects and non-governmental agencies (Starkey,
1985a; Starkey and Goe, 1985). Thus if viewed from a continental
perspective relatively large amounts of public sector funds (African,
international and bilateral) are now being channelled into the active
promotion of animal traction, and related research and development
activities. In a few countries, draught animal power is also being
promoted by private manufacturing and commodity trading companies. With
significant interest and resources now being allocated to draught animal
power, there is an urgent need to ensure resources are efficiently utilized
and that programmes of research and development are appropriately
orientated to alleviating the key constraints.
2.3. A geographical and numerical perspective
While in the whole world, there may be as many as 400 million draught
animals (Ramaswamy, 1981), in Africa the total figure is only in the order
of 10 to 17 million (ILCA, 1981; Anderson, 1984). Of these around
6 million are found in Ethiopia, where almost all the farmers in the
highlands use draught oxen (Anderson, 1983; Gryseels, 1983). In Egypt, one
million cattle and water buffaloes are used for work, and elsewhere in
north Africa smaller numbers of oxen, donkeys, horses and camels are used.
Thus in the areas of Sub-Saharan Africa in which animal traction has been
introduced in the last century, there are now between five and ten million
In West Africa, there are three broad zones in which draught animals are
used. In the north of the Sahel, where rain is less than 600 mm per year
and arable farming is limited, most of the animals employed for work are
donkeys, horses and camels, all mainly used for transport. Further south
is an ecological belt running from central Senegal to Tchad and northern
Nigeria, where zebu breeds of cattle are widely used for crop cultivation.
South of this zone, in southern Senegal, southwestern Mali and Burkina
Faso, The Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin and
southern Nigeria, trypanosomiasis is a major constraint, and where work
animals are used, they are generally small, trypanotolerant taurine
cattle. Equines are almost totally absent from these Guinea savannah and
forest zones, and purebred zebus are rare.
In Senegal over 30% of farmers use draught animals, including about 200,000
horses, 130,000 donkeys and 100,000 cattle (Harvard, 1985). In The Gambia
about one third of farmers use animal power, and employ 18,000 N'Dama
taurines, and a much smaller number of donkeys (Starkey and Goe, 1985). In
Guinea about 100,000 N'Dama are used for work (Bigot, 1983). Between
30,000 and 40,000 taurines and taurine-zebu crosses are employed in each of
Ivory Coast, Ghana and Benin, and 5,000 and 1,000 are used in Togo and
Sierra Leone respectively (Starkey and Goe, 1985; Starkey, 1986b). In Mali
a total of about 400,000 draught animals are used, approximately 180,000
taurines and crossbreds, 140,000 zebus and 80,000 donkeys (Starkey and Goe,
1985). In Burkina Faso about 10 15% of farmers use draught animal power,
equines in the north and for most transport, zebu in the central area, and
taurines in the southwest (Imboden et al., 1983). Overall, about 10% of
farmers in West Africa use draught animal power, with the highest
concentrations in the cotton and groundnut growing areas of Senegal, Mali,
Burkina Faso. All countries in the sub-region have research and
development activities relating to animal traction.
In central Africa, there are very low cattle populations, and even fewer
equines. Projects promoting the use draught animals in Cameroun and Zaire
have experienced high cattle mortality, but have persisted due to the
sustained interest of farmers and development agencies (Wagner and
Munzinger, 1982; Starkey, 1984a). In most countries in the sub-region,
both governments and non-governmental organizations are carrying out
studies on the potential for draught animal power, and a few private
agricultural companies are using work oxen. However, at present well under
1% of farmers use this technology.
Animal traction is used in all countries of East Africa, but there are
great differences between and within countries in the extent of its use.
For example in Kenya, an overall figure of 12% of all farmers using a total
of 700,000 working animals, mainly zebu oxen, derives from some areas, such
as Machakos, where 80% of farmers use draught animals, and from other
areas, such as the Maasai rangeland, where no cattle are used for
cultivation (Starkey and Goe, 1984). In Tanzania around 300,000 East
African Zebus are used for work, and cultivate about 15% of the cropped
area (Kjaerby, 1983). In Uganda, about 100,000 draught oxen are used,
particularly in the cotton-growing areas in the south. In many parts of
the East African sub-region, agricultural research stations, universities
and agricultural projects are currently undertaking research and
development studies relating to animal traction.
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Draught animals are used in all countries in southern Africa, and in
Botswana 80% of farmers plough with cattle, using a total of 360,000
animals, often in mixed teams of 6 to 12 oxen, bulls and females (Starkey
and Goe, 1984). In Malawi, about 50,000 work oxen are used, with adoption
ranging from 60% in some areas in the north, to less than 5% in the south
(Starkey, 1985c). About 500,000 oxen are used in Zimbabwe, where 15 20 %
of small holders use animal power. In Madagascar, 330,000 draught oxen are
used (Tran van Nhieu, 1982). Throughout southern Africa, and in
Madagascar, development projects are currently promoting the use of draught
animals, and several research studies are being undertaken.
From these generalized figures, it is clear that while there are
differences between the present extent of draught animal power utilization
in the different sub-regions and countries, there are also some important
similarities. With the notable exceptions of Ethiopia and Botswana (and
perhaps some central African countries), there are wide variations within
each country as to the extent of adoption, with common overall figures of
10 20% disguising large within-country variations. In almost all
countries, animal traction has been proven to be viable in certain (often
undefined) circumstances, and therefore in each country innovative farmers
could travel to see draught animals in use and could obtain basic advice
and equipment. In almost all countries, there are full-time professional
staff of ministries, projects, research stations and educational
institutions that are currently devoting a great deal of time to
development activities aimed at improving the use of draught animal power.
2.4. The range of operations
Having considered the numbers of draught animals in use in Africa, it is
important to understand the extent to which they are used. Primary soil
cultivation accounts for probably 90% of animal power usage, with probably
three million maresha ards in use in Ethiopia, and a similar number of
steel mouldboard ploughs in use elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa. The
majority of ploughing is for dryland crops, notably maize, sorghum,
groundnuts, cotton and teff. In Madagascar, parts of West Africa and in
small irrigation schemes elsewhere, oxen are used for ploughing and
puddling rice swamps. In a few places in Africa, including northern
Nigeria, ridgers are used instead of mouldboard ploughs. Senegal is
unusual in that about 150,000 seeders and 70,000 groundnut lifters are in
use (Harvard, 1985), but elsewhere numbers of seeders and groundnut lifters
are very small. Throughout Africa, harrows may be used, but there may be
ten ploughs for each harrow in use. While weeding implements are available
in most countries, it is likely that less than 5% of farmers who plough
with animals use weeding tines. While fewer than 10% of animal power users
have carts, these may well be in use throughout the year, and so their
importance may be greater than absolute numbers imply. In Ethiopia the use
of animals for threshing by trampling is common, but this involves little
time, and no equipment. In some parts of the Sahel and Botswana, animals
are used to raise water from wells, and in a few countries in Africa oxen
and mules are used in timber extraction.
Thus most draught animals in Africa are used only for ploughing, an
operation frequently restricted to one cropping period each year. As the
ownership of draught animals necessitates the allocation of management time
and other costs throughout the year, such lack of regular employment has
major implications both for overall farm profitability and the standard of
training that can be achieved in the time available each year. Thus
under-utilization and poor animal discipline are closely interlinked, and
represent endogenous constraints to farm profitability that, if overcome
may allow farmers to achieve benefits that exceed the additional
3. PRECONDITIONS FOR SUCCESSFUL USE OF DRAUGHT ANIMAL POWER
For animal traction to be viable, in Africa or elsewhere, it must be
economically profitable, or have distinct social benefits that compensate
for the costs. Where animals are used primarily for one operation, such as
transport, forestry or water raising, the profitability depends primarily
on the availability of animals, labour and feed resources, and the
relationship between operating costs and benefits obtained. However in
mixed farms, the profitability depends on numerous complex and interacting
criteria. In order to identify likely constraints, some of these will be
3.2. Land and Population
Farmers must have reliable access to land of appropriate quality and
quantity. The minimum area to sustain animal traction will vary with the
agroclimate, the cropping intensity and the value of the crops produced,
and is highly area specific. It has been pointed out that as population
pressures increase, agriculture intensifies, and a stage is reached where
short fallows and reduced tree stumps makes the adoption of animal traction
technically and economically appropriate (Binswanger and Pingali, 1984;
Pingali et al., 1986). If animal traction is promoted in conditions of
low population density which are still able to use long periods of bush
fallow, it may well be rejected by farmers as being inappropriate and
unprofitable. As population pressures and agricultural intensity increase
further, the land becomes a limiting resource, and areas required for
grazing or forage production may be more economically used for crop
production. Thus in highly intensive agricultural areas, the profitability
of using large animals only for work may decrease, and at this stage animal
traction may well be combined with milk production, through the use of
females. While there are still areas of Africa where land is too plentiful
to make animal traction highly attractive, there are few locations where
agriculture is too intensive. Evidence from many parts of Asia, suggest
that draught animals can be maintained on holdings of less than one
hectare, even in hilly areas, provided resources are intensively used
(Petheram, Thahar and Bernsten, 1985; Starkey and Apetofia, 1986). Even
when individual farm size is below the critical area, animal traction may
still be employed through systems of hiring or communal ownership.
The availability and cost of family or hired labour is crucial in
determining the profitability of animal traction. If labour is scarce at
times of primary cultivation, draught animal power may well alleviate the
constraint. However while the employment of draught animals may remove
some labour bottlenecks (for example at ploughing time), it may create
others (for example at weeding or harvest). If there is partition of
duties between men, women and children, benefits to one category may be
achieved at the expense of another. Draught animals require attention all
the year, and in some parts of Africa, including The Gambia and Sierra
Leone, farmers hand their animals over to pastoralists, to avoid the
management problem of grazing cattle during the dry season. However as the
profitability of using draught animals generally increases with greater
animal utilization, diversification of operations to span the farming year
might also be justified, if the benefits realized are greater than the
value of the additional labour and inputs required to organize this.
Increased use of animals usually results in improved training, and this may
reduce the labour required to supervise existing operations. In much of
Africa it is rare to see just one person controlling working animals,
although this is the norm in most of Asia and Ethiopia, and there may be
much scope for labour saving through improved animal training.
3.4. Availability of adapted animals
For animal traction to be successful, appropriate animals have to be
available. To be appropriate, animals must be able to survive the local
disease challenge and exist on available and affordable resources. Such
adaptation is far more important than body size, and large size may be
disadvantageous as it is associated with high individual cost and higher
feed requirements (Starkey, 1985a). Thus in many countries where animals
have been used for work for centuries, including Ethiopia and Burma, large
breeds have not been developed, and the indigenous work animals are
relatively small but highly adapted. In most African countries, well
adapted animals are found, although there are areas of West and Central
Africa, where scarcity of animals is a major constraint. Even in countries
where there are many animals, they may not be easily available to an
individual farmer, at an affordable price, particularly where there are
complex family and tribal traditions relating to cattle ownership.
3.5. Existence of adapted cultivation systems
Successful animal traction requires appropriate cropping systems that allow
soil fertility to be maintained and produce sufficient forage for the
animals. Where farmers move from shifting cultivation to grass-fallow or
permanent cultivation, a new, appropriate rotation is required as an
alternative to the bush-fallow. While this may appear self evident, there
have been cases where animal traction has been promoted by projects in
areas of high erosion risk, low soil fertility or experiencing annual
flooding, without any appropriate management systems being agreed in
advance with the farmers (Sargent et al., 1981; Starkey, 1985c).
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3.6. Market for produce
For animal traction to be successful, the farmer must be able to sell
produce to pay for essential inputs such as animals and implements. The
produce may well be a staple food crop, although the success of draught
animal programmes associated with cotton and groundnuts is noteworthy. The
income gained from produce sales, must be commensurate with the cost of
inputs. Unfortunately there have been many examples in West Africa, where
farmers have faced serious problems in having to repay expensive animal
traction packages from low value crops (Barratt, Gregory, Wilcock, Baker
and Crawford, 1982). In two similar animal traction projects in Zaire, the
success of one, and disappointing impact of the other, was closely
associated with the fact that one was close to a reliable market for the
staple maize crop (Starkey, 1984a).
3.7. Socio-cultural factors
Despite certain widespread prejudices in Africa, there is no evidence to
suggest that animal husbandry skills are restricted to particular ethnic
groups. While previous animal husbandry knowledge is not a prerequisite
for success with animal traction, familiarity with animals is clearly an
advantage. Where ownership of draught animals or equipment conveys
enhanced status, decisions may be taken that may not seem justified on
purely economic grounds. Similarly draught animals may be used, or not
used, depending on how they are perceived in terms of risk minimization.
While socio-cultural constraints may be more important than economic
factors, they are not constant and do change with time. Longstanding
traditions may well not be broken until it is clearly profitable to do so.
For farmers to successfully use draught animal power, they must be aware of
the possibilities and techniques. Such knowledge may come from seeing
other farmers, from informal discussions, or from specific publicity
activities, such as those provided by extension services. From the
emphasis given to government extension programmes, it is clear that many
authorities regard lack of knowledge to be a crucial limiting factor.
3.9. Financial Resources
Draught animals, whether cattle, horses or donkeys are valuable, and
represent much capital. Most equipment packages available in Africa are
relatively expensive, and thus farmers adopting animal traction require
either significant capital, or access to credit. Such credit may be
available from modern or traditional sources. Inevitably it is the
wealthier farmers who have sufficient capital or credit to invest in animal
traction. In general, the capital required to allow ownership of draught
animals and steel implements is high, relative to farm incomes in Africa,
and it is widely believed that lack of capital or credit is a crucial
constraint. While this is often the case, shortage of finance is often
related to lack of profitability, for it has been seen that commercial
sources, both traditional and modern, will provide credit, when animal
traction is clearly profitable.
3.10. Provision of Services
For successful animal traction to develop and be sustained, farmers have
need of certain services, relating to equipment provision, equipment
repair, animal health and husbandry, extension and training and research
and development. Contrary to very widely held assumptions, these services
do not necessarily have to be provided by governments. For example, the
spread of animal traction in Asia, the Americas, Europe and Ethiopia did
not generally involve government intervention or formal development
projects. In these cases, the diffusion of knowledge, and the provision of
training services, health services, equipment, research and development
activities involved traditional artisans, entrepreneurs and local
initiatives. There is ample evidence from all regions of Africa, that
draught animals can be introduced and sustained through private services,
whether traditional or modern. Thus animal traction has diffused over
international boundaries, and developed and spread without any direct
government sponsored interventions. In such circumstances finance
generally comes from private sources, farmers often pay other farmers to
help them train animals, and repairs are generally undertaken by village
artisans. Animal health services may well be provided by local herbalists,
but frequently farmers travel to buy known drugs from veterinary sources,
or human pharmacies. Even research and development is undertaken by
farmers and blacksmiths, as new techniques and cropping combinations are
tried and equipment is modified. In West Africa, animal traction
technology has been transmitted by farmers, artisans and traders over the
frontiers of Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Guinea, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo
and many other countries, and similar experiences have been observed in
Thus, where it is socially and economically profitable, animal traction can
develop without government intervention, and all the various services will
be supplied through local initiatives. Nevertheless government services
can be beneficial and they may well speed up the rate of development,
particularly where they stimulate the provision of continued local
Farmers require access to appropriate equipment, spare parts and
maintenance services. Lack of suitable equipment, limited spare parts and
lack of repair facilities are often cited as major constraints throughout
Africa. In some cases draught animal power can be assisted through the
training of village blacksmiths, or simply by helping blacksmiths to obtain
The degree to which farmers require animal health services depends on the
ecological zone, with haemoparasites, such as trypanosomiasis. being major
constraints in some areas. However, the highest mortalities generally
occur in schemes sponsored by government projects, which may use exotic
breeds or crossbreds or animals that have been bought in from other areas.
In such circumstances, provision of health services would appear a
Farmer and animal training services may be necessary when animal traction
is being first introduced into an area. In principle these should be
designed to be phased out, as village-based training started by a service
is continued by the farmers themselves. Nevertheless throughout Africa
there are numerous, relatively expensive training centres that appear to be
considered as permanent fixtures and that have in some cases been training
oxen away from the villages for two decades. Extension services should be
working closely with farmers and research teams, and should be
disseminating proven solutions, not preconceived ideas. If their
recommendations are not taken up within a reasonable period and continued
through farmer to farmer diffusion, it is likely that they are not
economically appropriate, and reassessment may be required.
In order to raise their standard of living, farmers require improvements to
their farming systems, and these come as a result of research and
development studies. Innovative farmers are constantly carrying out their
own research, and until recent years, improvements came almost entirely
from farmers, and village entrepreneurs. However, modern research
techniques, facilities and communications should allow full-time
professional workers to achieve much more rapid progress. However, as one
takes an overview of animal traction in Africa, and considers the very many
man-years of research put in by national and international research
centres, and numerous agricultural development projects, it might well be
difficult to explain to smallholder farmers using animal traction precisely
how they have benefited from these official research and development
4. IMPLICATIONS FOR MINISTRIES AND DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS
In any region, country or area there will be a unique combination of
factors, including endogenous characteristics of farming systems and
exogenous economic conditions, that will determine whether or not the use
of draught animals or "improved" animal power technology is appropriate.
For national ministries and development agencies intending to promote
animal traction, an understanding of the social and economic costs and
benefits involved in using draught animals is required. This need not be a
comprehensive, statistical baseline survey (although this may be useful),
but could be a more subjective, broad-based appraisal, based on discussions
with farmers (Beebe, 1985). The objective should be to identify the overall
profitability, and the major limiting factors. A note of caution is
appropriate here, for in West Africa many pre-project appraisal and
funding-agreement documents have emphasized the profitability of animal
traction, while subsequent post-intervention evaluation reports have
highlighted the problems of unprofitability (Sargent et al., 1981).
If an initial study indicates that animal traction technology is socially
and economically beneficial, then the factors limiting the rate of adoption
or efficiency of utilization can be defined. These will probably fall
under the various headings already discussed, including land, labour,
adapted animals and cropping systems, marketing opportunities, price
equilibria, socio-cultural factors, farmer knowledge, financial resources
and the availability of appropriate services. A decision has then to be
taken by the national government, agricultural project or development
agency as to whether or not to allow the technology to develop without
intervention. Given that the technology has been found to be intrinsically
profitable, it should extend without interference, using primarily the
services of the commercial or traditional private sectors. However its
rate of progress may well be speeded up by direct action aimed at
alleviating the limiting factors. Since any intervention will involve
costs, emphasis should be placed on the most cost-effective options, and
these will probably be those that directly alter the limiting factors. For
example, if capital is limiting, then the provision of credit may be
appropriate; if knowledge is insufficient, then extension services may
require strengthening, and if disease is a crucial factor, provision of
additional animal health services may be indicated.
However, evidence from past schemes suggests that an initial study may well
suggest that animal traction is not economically or socially profitable in
the particular conditions of a given area. The same study may well
identify the key local constraints. In such circumstances a policy
decision is required as to whether to intervene to change the prevailing
cost/benefit equilibrium. If the policy decision is non-intervention, then
animal traction technology is unlikely to develop naturally, due to its
lack of overall profitability. A policy of intervention will involve
costs, and so the intervention should be directed to the .key limiting
factors. This may involve changing marketing policies to increase farm
income, or decrease farm costs, or providing subsidized services. The aim
would be to make the technology profitable for the individual farmer. Such
intervention might be undertaken for social reasons, or in the belief that
once a certain level of adoption were reached, the technology would become
self-sustaining, without the need for continued intervention.
It may seem that the processes outlined above would be self-evident, and
universally practised. Discussions with national authorities, field
personnel and donor organizations suggest this is hardly ever the case.
There are numerous examples of ministries, aid agencies and development
projects operating without any clearly defined policy relating to animal
traction. In many cases a technology is being promoted (or not promoted)
because of personal whims, and in very few cases has an attempt been made
to prioritize possible interventions and assess their relative cost and
benefits. In particular, guidance has generally been sought from external
technical consultants rather than the farmers themselves. This has
resulted in the promotion of high-cost equipment, animals and services,
that the farmer may recognize as being intrinsically inappropriate, but
which are accepted, in the short term, due to the subsidized nature of
Whether or not animal traction is found to be profitable, and whether or
not a policy of intervention is chosen, research studies may be undertaken
aimed at improving the local draught animal- power technology, in order to
enhance the overall benefits, or reduce the costs. This research is itself
a form of intervention, with important budgetary implications.
5. IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT STUDIES
There is overwhelming evidence that indicates that research studies should
adopt a multi-disciplinary, or farming systems, approach. This does not
mean that component studies are not required, but that topics for component
research should be identified from an analysis of the whole farming system,
and that wherever possible component research should be undertaken in close
cooperation with the farmers themselves (Anderson, 1985). The
multi-disciplinary approach should include a careful assessment of the
priorities for the farmer, and care should be taken that research subjects
reflect the key constraints of the farmers, rather than simply the
interests of the researchers. A strong element of economic realism should
be integral within any research team, so that time is not wasted on
developing technically excellent, but clearly unaffordable solutions. The
methodology should be flexible and open-ended, being designed to seek
solutions, rather than prove points. The studies should be highly
development orientated, with any data collection being merely a means to an
end, rather than an end in itself, and measurements should clearly reflect
those parameters important to the farmer. Wherever possible, research
should be carried out on representative local farms, using, wherever
practicable, resources that are available to, and affordable by, the
farmer. The concept of farmers acting as "consultants" in both on-farm and
on-station research is particularly helpful, and their advice should be
seriously and regularly sought in planning, implementing and interpreting
studies. Finally, research should be undertaken in close liaison with
similar programmes elsewhere, to ensure that researchers do not duplicate
studies unnecessarily, and that they build on each other's experience.
Put in these general terms, the approach suggested might seem
self-evident. However, experience from very many countries indicates that
this has not always been the case. Examples can be used to illustrate some
of these points, but it should be stressed that the examples of
methodological problems should be used constructively, and they must not be
taken to imply criticism of the researchers or the institutions concerned.
To illustrate the need for a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach one
could chose almost any country in Africa, where there are separate
departments, or ministries responsible for agricultural engineering and
livestock, and where there are few linkages between these divisions. In
such circumstances, it is common to find the agricultural engineers
designing and re-designing ploughs and implements, while the livestock
ministry concentrates on the genetic improvement of potential draught
animals through breeding. Both divisions strive to achieve excellence in
their fields, and the results are often implements and animals of superb
quality. However, all too often, the research has little impact on the
farmer, as it did not address the critical limiting factors, and did not
take into account the fact that the farmers could not afford the cost of
such high quality products. For example, simpler implements may be quite
adequate and economically highly preferable, and the local breeds of
livestock quite capable of working, if sufficient feed is available. It is
emphasized that recent examples of component research giving rise to
relatively expensive solutions to non-limiting factors, could be cited from
most countries in Africa, and the cases mentioned below are drawn from many
Perhaps the best example of component research leading to unaffordable
solutions, is the wheeled toolcarrier, which has been developed and refined
for three decades. Despite widespread and continued promotion by different
development agencies in many countries in Africa, it has not yet been
proven by farmer adoption. In The Gambia, several hundred wheeled tool
carriers were imported, before it was found to be too expensive and
insufficiently manoeuvrable (Mettrick, 1978). Different designs were tried
in Botswana, and after the initial optimistic suggestions that they would
prove invaluable (Gibbon, Harvey and Hubbard, 1974; Mochudi, 1976), they
were quietly rejected by farmers (EFSAIP, 1981). In Senegal, wheeled
toolcarriers have been commercially available to farmers for many years,
but due to lack of demand, regular production has now ceased, and only
small numbers are made to meet the requirements of research stations.
Elsewhere in Africa, for example Benin, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, and
Tanzania, wheeled tool carriers have been evaluated and modified on
research stations, but have not been recommended for farmer use. In
several countries, including Niger and Mali, the research is continuing.
It is interesting to note that India has had similar experiences, with
toolcarriers that were developed on research stations being found too
expensive for widespread farmer adoption. These economic problems are
seldom highlighted in the literature (Kemp, 1980; Bansal and Srivestra,
1981; Garg and Devani, 1983; Kemp, 1983; Thierstein, 1983; Bansal, 1885;
Lal, 1986; Inter Tropiques, 1985). Yet, while there may have been some
technical problems (the wheeled carriers cannot negotiate stumps easily,
and some components have needed much modification), the carriers have been
rejected primarily on economic criteria. Thus farmers lent them for
evaluation have been happy to keep them, but not to pay the real cost of
the toolbars. In addition, farmers have pointed out that it is preferable
to own a simple cart and a simple plough, than one combined implement
unless the cost savings are high. Given the amount of time and money
invested in this research in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas for over
a quarter of a century, there seem to have been few objective evaluations.
Those that have been prepared indicate clearly that much time (and money)
could have been saved, had farmers been consulted, and had the economic
realities of the farming systems been understood from the outset (Mettrick,
There are strong parallels between the development of wheeled
tool-carriers, and the development of improved draught animals. Both have
tended to be the domain of a single discipline, both have been centred on
research stations, and both have had strong donor support. In both cases,
the goal has been excellence, rather than adaptability and affordability.
In several countries, including, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi and
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Senegal, breeding programmes have produced crossbred animals that are
clearly stronger than indigenous breeds, (Letenneur, 1978; Tran van Nhieu,
1982, Tessema and Emojon, 1984). However the crossbreds have inevitably
required more maintenance feeding (Anderson, 1983; Tessema and Emojon,
1984), they have often been disease susceptible (Letenneur, 1978), and have
been more expensive (Tran van Nhieu, 1982). Discussions with farmers
indicate that while strength may be desirable, vital characteristics of
draught animals include the requirement to be relatively inexpensive,
readily available and easily changeable, and animals must be able to
survive using available and affordable feed resources and animal health
services (Starkey, 1985a). Thus, while farmers are often happy to benefit
from the output of subsidized breeding programmes, such schemes are
unlikely to viable in the long term. This was seen in Senegal where little
now remains of the draught animal breeding programme of the late nineteen
sixties (Hamon, 1971).
The examples cited have involved agricultural engineers and animal
scientists. However many comparable cases could be cited in other
disciplines, for example relating to the development of nutritionally
excellent but highly expensive feed supplements, or even technically sound
but excessively time-consuming training courses.
The most important conclusions relating to these examples is that farmers
should be consulted from the outset, that studies should be prioritized to
address the key limiting factors, and that economic criteria must not be
forgotten. It is also important that research should carried out in
conditions comparable to that of the farmers.
In 1984, on a research station in Tanzania, the only animals available for
testing new equipment designs were purebred Friesians over twice the weight
of the local Zebu animals. In many other countries the animals used for
on-station experiments are far bigger and stronger than village animals
(Anderson, 1985). This has resulted in equipment being designed and
manufactured that is simply too heavy for the village animals to use
(Kjaerby, 1983). Similarly the standards of veterinary care on stations
may be such that exotic animals can thrive and appear well-adapted to the
environment, although they could not survive under the conditions of the
surrounding villages. Feeding trials have taken place that have evaluated
supplements that, though clearly effective, could not have been made
available to farmers at an affordable price (Tessema and Emojon, 1984), or
which involved feeding animals staple human foods (Traverse, 1971). On one
research station in Kenya, a small unit farm was developed to allow more
realistic assessment of constraints, but as the research programme fell
behind schedule a tractor was brought in to plough the "ox-cultivated"
While the open-endedness of research is an accepted principle, some
programmes have been designed to prove certain preconceived ideas. For
example, one donor-assisted project in southern Africa was designed "to
establish the advantages of using an animal draught minimum tillage crop
production system, including toolcarrier, over present and alternative
systems". A more open objective would have been to investigate the
relative merits of the different options. Nevertheless in the example
quoted the actual research led to the rejection of the new system (EFSAIP,
Research projects frequently become bogged down with the excessive
collection of data, and throughout the world, there are workers looking
forward to that utopian day when there will be sufficient time to analyse
and write up the results of previous studies. To avoid this, research
programmes should define at an early stage, what information is likely to
be of most direct benefit to the farmers. Thus, while regular measurement
of animal weight, feed intake, instantaneous effort, and daily work
achieved may well be useful, such data can be costly in terms of time
required for collection and analysis. It may be that criteria important to
the farmer are simpler, such as general ability to perform the required
tasks in a farming year, and final sale value of his animals. If this is
so, it could be that time saved in data collection, could be more usefully
spent in obtaining a closer understanding of the farmers. This is not to
suggest objective measurements should be discouraged, but rather a planned
balance is achieved between scientific measurements and the farmers' own
assessment of crucial parameters.
The need for close liaison with other research and development projects
appears to be universally acknowledged, but seldom acted on. Examples
could be cited from most countries in Africa of limited contact both within
and between countries. In Botswana a valuable study on donkey transport
for road construction was undertaken without the benefits of external
information sources (McCutcheon, 1985). In Zaire, several draught animal
projects worked in isolation, until an initiative was taken by the
agriculture ministry and some aid agencies. Parallel animal traction
activities have been taking place in Benin and Togo, without the benefits
of close cooperation. However, in several countries, including Sierra
Leone and Togo, national liaison projects have been implemented
specifically to improve internal and external information exchange, and
these have initiated visits and study tours to neighboring countries.
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6. IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH TOPICS
The premise of this discussion is that research on draught animal power
should, wherever possible, be based on the key limiting factors, and should
be aimed at developing affordable solutions that can directly assist
smallholder farmers. The object is not to totally discourage academically
orientated studies, nor work involving expensive technology, nor long-term
genetic improvement programmes, but it is to be hoped that priority in the
allocation of limited funds and personnel should be given to finding low
cost solutions to the main constraints identified by farmers.
In very few cases is absolute draught power a limiting factor, and seldom
is the genetic potential for body weight reached. In most countries, the
indigenous animals maintained on research stations are significantly bigger
and heavier than those found in the villages, indicating that increased
body size can be achieved through management techniques. Farmers have
always had to accept a compromise between a large body size for draught
strength and the benefits of small size which include lower feed
requirements and lower individual value. In general, programmes of
selecting and crossbreeding for draught characteristics are complicated,
expensive, and difficult to maintain under village conditions (Starkey,
1985a). Thus genetic improvement schemes for draught should only be given
priority in cases where a clear need has been established and where
improvements in management are insufficient to meet the farmers'
requirements. In general, breed and crossbreed comparisons based on
dynamometers and on-station work have very limited application, and should
not be allocated limited resources. If breeds are to be compared, it should
be on the basis of long-term, overall satisfactory performance under
village conditions. Similarly novel breed/species evaluations should only
be attempted if there would be realistic opportunities for making such
animals readily available at an affordable price, should they prove
suitable. Since there have been many attempts in the last one hundred
years to introduce novel varieties of cattle, horses, donkeys and buffaloes
into different ecological zones in Africa, the experience of these previous
schemes should carefully evaluated, before attempting further expensive
importations. Thus research relating to animals is likely to be best aimed
at identifying low cost methods of improving the performance of indigenous
animals, through systems of management and nutrition, and through disease
Inadequate nutrition has often been cited as a major constraint to draught
animal power in Africa (Munzinger, 1982; CIMMYT, 1984; Poats et al.,
1986) and in recent drought years mortality rates as high as 50%,
attributed to starvation, have been recorded in Botswana and Kenya (Starkey
and Goe, 1984). On the other hand, based on an overall assessment of
cropping intensity and evidence from Asia, a World Bank study has concluded
that fodder management is not yet a problem that constrains the number of
oxen kept for work in Africa (Pingali et al., 1986).
Research on the nutrition of working animals has produced guidelines on
feed requirements (CEEMAT/FAO, 1972; Goe and McDowell, 1980; Reh, 1982;
Mathers, 1984; Lawrence, 1985), and evaluated supplements and forages
(CIMMYT, 1984; Tessema and Emojon, 1984; Edwards, 1985). However while
knowledge of the biological requirements of animals has been progressing,
this has sometimes overlooked the observation that the farmers know how to
improve the nutrition of their animals, but for sound economic reasons do
not apply their knowledge. This may be because they cannot afford the time
or money to bring about an improvement, or because it is actually more
profitable to use their resources in other ways. In Sierra Leone, palm
wine tapping has priority in family labour allocation over the grazing of
animals as it is more financially rewarding (Allagnat and Koroma, 1984).
In another example from Ethiopia, farmers may prefer to sell feed for cash,
rather than feed it to their undernourished animals (M. R. Goe, personal
communication, 1985). These actions may not be as drastic as they seem,
for other on-going research at ILCA suggests that animals on restricted
diets for prolonged periods may be able to achieve all the work normally
required of them (H. Soller and J. Reed, personal communication, 1985).
It would seen that new research initiatives should aim to identify simple
modifications to the farming system, that result in improved animal
nutrition at little extra cost. One area of research with significant
potential would appear to be agroforestry, whereby legume trees requiring
little attention can combine fuel-wood provision, browse, stall fed
supplementation and erosion control. Forage legumes may also be valuable,
but despite very many years of work in many countries in Africa, there are
still very few low cost, long-term solutions. An interesting observation
from Botswana appears relevant, for in one research trial forage legumes
were being assessed as a means to improve the condition of animals at the
start of the rains. However, the proposed solution to the problem
required additional ploughing at the beginning of the rains, and it became
clear that it is impractical to try to remove a limiting factor by making
use of the same scarce resource. While there may be scope for evaluating
proven, low-cost nutritional solutions from elsewhere (for example Asian
systems of agroforestry or rice straw utilization), attention should also
be paid to what the farmers themselves recommend, and their reasons for not
themselves adopting their known solutions.
6.4. Animal health
Mortality rates in programmes promoting draught animals can be very high.
Figures in excess of 20% have been recorded in specific areas of Malawi,
Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Cameroun (Reh, 1982; Starkey and Goe, 1984;
Starkey, 1985c). Frequently the specific cause of the mortality was never
proven, but it was often associated with the translocation of animals,
farmer unfamiliarity with animals and enzootic trypanosomiasis. Such high
mortality rates represent a great waste of resources, and must tend to make
animal traction risky, unprofitable and unattractive to the farmers. The
fact that farmers do continue to try to use draught animal power in such
circumstances suggests that the benefits of success must be great, and must
justify the high risks. Thus research aimed at identifying low cost means
of reducing mortality in such areas would seem highly appropriate. Such
studies should involve an investigation of disease problems, and options
for vaccinations, prophylaxis and vector control. However, the advice of
traditional livestock keepers should also be carefully considered, for
years of experience within the ecosystems may have identified systems of
grazing and valuable plants that can reduce the risks of disease.
It is likely that designing and re-designing implements has, to date,
accounted for the greatest resource allocation to animal traction research
and development in Africa. There can be few, if any, countries in Africa
without donor-assisted projects that have developed new or modified designs
of ploughs. In general such studies are time-consuming, and repeat work
already undertaken in neighboring areas. The "re-invention of the wheel"
has occurred many, many times. In some cases, well-proven and appropriate
designs of ploughs, ridgers, harrows, weeders and seeders are readily
available to farmers, but elsewhere suitable equipment designs are still
unavailable. In some cases, on-station research has led to implements that
seem too heavy or complicated for farmer use (Kjaerby, 1983). In other
cases, farmer evaluation has been undertaken but manufacturers have not.
been convinced that the designs would be sufficiently marketable to risk
their own capital. For example, in Kenya a donor-assisted project spent
seven years evaluating and modifying designs of draught animal equipment,
but at the end of this time the selected implements were still not readily
available to the farmers (LDD, 1984). While many workshops in Africa are
beset with infrastructural problems, most countries have adequate
facilities (often parastatal and generally with much over-capacity) to
manufacture sufficient steel implements to meet the needs of their
farmers. Thus the problems in the past have not generally been the lack of
implement research nor the lack of manufacturing facilities, but rather
insufficient contact with the farmers at the design and testing stages,
almost no information exchange between professionals in neighboring
countries, and the lack of a clear market to justify production of proven
Future initiatives must address these issues of farmer involvement in
equipment development, the identification of clear markets and much greater
information exchange between professionals. On this last point, it could be
argued that no new research and development work is justified until the
vast amount of existing information and experience has been tapped.
Continued repetition of the similar work (and similar mistakes) cannot be
condoned, and therefore research and development workers should try to
start new studies with designs already well proven by farmers elsewhere.
With so much existing experience, emphasis should be on sharing, and if
necessary, adapting well proven technology. If the general methodology of
farmer involvement and multi-disciplinary studies is applied to equipment
development, many of the previous problems would be solved. If many
farmers are convinced that a design is technically suitable, and if both
economists and farmers are sure that it is affordable, then there should
not be major problems in ensuring manufacture and retailing. If however
the design is not affordable or profitable, as often appears to be the
case, then the research team and farmers need to discuss prospects for
lowering the cost, increasing the resulting benefits or searching for
alternative solutions to the critical constraints of the farming system.
Given the economic problems of animal traction in many systems, general
research emphasis should be on producing low-cost equipment that can be
made or maintained in village conditions. It may be noted that draught
animal utilization in Asia, Ethiopia, Europe and the Americas developed
extensively using relatively simple implements made from available
materials, that could be maintained by farmers and village blacksmiths.
Equipment development was carried out by the farmers and blacksmiths
themselves and large scale manufacturing was undertaken by the private
sector, when assured markets for products had been identified. It is
likely that sustainable equipment designs for African farmers will continue
to be those based on materials that are relatively inexpensive, locally
available and easily repairable. This should not stop research
organizations, particularly those in developed countries, from screening
new materials, and monitoring industrial developments, for materials and
techniques likely to have application in third world agriculture. However
unless it is probable that the innovation could be inexpensively used, and
easily maintained, then this should not be an area of priority.
There have useful studies carried out that suggest that in certain
agroclimatic zones introduced mouldboard ploughs are not desirable, for
they exacerbate erosion. In such circumstances implements that cause less
disturbance to the soil may indicated. This has already be the subject of
several uncoordinated investigations in the Sahel and parts of southern
Africa, and might be a useful area for the analysis of previous experience,
prior to possible further farming systems research.
There would seem to be much scope for development agencies and
international research centres in compiling, reviewing and consolidating
experience relating to the development of draught animal power equipment in
Africa, and elsewhere. Some attempts at this have been initiated (CEEMAT,
1971; Viebig, 1982; ILO, 1983; Lowe, 1983; Ahmed and Kinsey, 1984), but
much remains to be done. Such studies should not be based mainly on
literature reviews, as regrettably, the relevant journals and project
reports are still dominated by descriptions of apparent successes, that
have never been widely accepted by farmers. Much benefit could be achieved
if the experience of genuine successes (proven by widespread farmer
adoption), and the real reasons for other work failing to have impact, were
well circulated. As interest, in many countries, is now moving towards the
development of an expanded range of implements, such as those used for
inter-row and on-ridge cultivation, this would be a useful area for
review. Similarly, studies on the experience gained in the development of
low cost carts and ploughs using wooden components would be valuable.
Much work has been carried out on yokes and harnessing in the past century,
and yet some controversy remains in academic circles. Researchers have
argued that this is an important area for further research (Ramaswamy,
1981; Smith, 1981; Goe, 1983; Dibbits, 1984) and that certain systems are
cruel and inefficient. However studies that have been carried out have
failed to demonstrate decisive evidence that would allow a definitive
choice to be made between the relative advantages and disadvantages of neck
yokes, withers yokes and collars for cattle (Barwell and Ayre, 1982;
Barton, 1985; P. R. Lawrence, personal communication, 1985). In Africa,
both neck yokes and withers yokes are very successfully used, and it is not
unusual for both types to be used in the same country. In a number of
countries, such as Senegal, collars and single and double yokes of both
neck and withers designs have existed side by side for decades. In such
circumstances, many farmers are aware of all options, and use systems most
appropriate to their financial means and their different operations. For
example the same farmer may use a wooden yoke for his oxen, an expensive
collar for his horse and a simple rubber harness strap for his donkey. It
would be expected, that if any one system were intrinsically better or more
cost-effective, it would rapidly become popular, through traditional means
of technology diffusion. Without such evidence, and without major farmer
dissatisfaction with yokes and harness, it would seem that while further
research on this subject may still be desirable, it should not be given
priority over other areas.
6.7. Diversification of operations
The use of draught animals for ploughing and for transport is generally
sufficiently well established in African countries for it to slowly diffuse
and spread wherever it is intrinsically profitable. While this slow
diffusion may be usefully speeded up by various national development
initiatives effecting either the provision of important services or the
overall profitability of adoption, research teams are unlikely to be in a
position to greatly effect the overall rate of adoption. As part of the
natural progression, innovative farmers will try new techniques, and where
clearly successful, these too will spread. It is in this area that
research teams might have a major effect, through assisting innovative
farmers to develop techniques that can enhance the benefits of using
draught animal power. While this may involve developing low-cost feeding
systems, as already discussed, a major impact could also come from
diversifying the range of operations that draught animals can be used for.
Inter-row and on-ridge cultivation are likely to be particularly
appropriate, as they are generally time consuming bottlenecks for hand
labour, that can be adapted to animal power if sufficient care and
confidence is available. At present, only a small proportion of farmers
who plough with animals, also weed with animals, yet many studies have
shown that this may be the most profitable use of animals (Barratt et al.
1982; Munzinger, 1982; Becker, 1984). In most cases the development of
appropriate weeding systems will not require much fundamental research, but
will necessitate research and extension teams working with farmers to adapt
existing knowledge to specific farming systems
In some circumstances, farmers may find it profitable to try to raise young
from their draught animals, and so use female animals. While the great
majority of draught animals in Africa, and the world are castrated males,
in several countries, including Senegal, small numbers of cows have been
successfully used for work (Lhoste, 1983). In some cases, it would seem
advantageous to develop this, and again some on-farm research with farmers
may be indicated to develop appropriate management systems.
Just as throughout the world draught cattle have generally been oxen, so
draught oxen have been used in pairs, and there are excellent management
reasons for this. Nevertheless, there may be cases where single animals
can be effectively employed, and this may suggest an area for collaborative
research with innovative farmers (Gryseels, Abiye Astatke, Anderson and
Getachew Assemenew, 1984).
In the Sahel and Botswana, studies are being carried out on the use of
animal power for raising water (Goubert, 1982; Jacobi and Lowe, 1984 a-d),
and in Senegal and Sierra Leone the use of draught animal power for milling
is being tested. In Kenya and Ethiopia, animals are being employed for
water harvesting and pond construction. Such diversification could effect
the overall profitability of draught animal power use, by allowing the
"overheads" of ownership to be covered by more days use each year.
In some countries, including Malawi, Swaziland and Togo, oxen or mules are
being used for timber extraction. Although such work may be specialized,
its proven efficiency and profitability, combined with its potential for
employing animals out of the normal cropping season could be of wider
interest, and this could be another subject for multi-disciplinary study,
involving forestry departments.
In many countries in Africa, irrigated rice production is developing
rapidly. Such rice-schemes have often created labour bottlenecks,
particularly when the initial donor-supplied tractors or power tillers have
broken down. In such circumstances animal power would seem appropriate.
In Asia, small-sized, indigenous cattle have been used in rice-swamps for
centuries, and in parts of West Africa and Madagascar, African breeds have
been successfully employed for many years .(Tran van Nhieu, 1982;
CEEMAT, 1984; Starkey, 1984b; Briat, 1985). However, in some countries,
there is a reluctance to use cattle in swamps, and this may be associated
with mortality problems (Starkey, 1985c). Thus there would seem scope for
valuable research on the use of draught cattle in rice farming systems in
In some cases during research on diversifying operations, limited
on-station studies may be appropriate, to allow controlled evaluation or to
prevent farmers from being subjected to any unnecessary risks that may be
associated with an unproven technology. However, if the proposed system
has been discussed with farmers (as should always be the case), and if it
is perceived by them as potentially advantageous, then it is most likely
that some farmers will be very willing to test the system. Such an
evaluation is likely to be far more rewarding than any on-station trials.
Any problems associated with farmer supervision or risk compensation, will
almost certainly be offset by invaluable practical lessons learned and the
resulting time savings on the whole programme.
6.8. Social and Economic Factors
It has been emphasized that the most valuable research is likely to come
from multi-disciplinary studies, carried out in cooperation with farmers.
As it has been argued that the most crucial factor governing draught animal
power is social and economic profitability, it follows that social and
economic analyses must be an integral part of all technical research
In most parts of Africa, it is men who use and benefit most from draught
animals. However in some countries, including Malawi, Sierra Leone, and
Zaire, some women have been using work oxen, and there may well be scope
for expanding the role of women in the use of animal traction and animal
powered transport. This might involve diversifying systems for using
draught animals to include operations and crops traditionally reserved for
women, or it might involve re-partition of traditional duties.
Children are often expected to assist in the use or management of draught
animals, and there have been examples where the ownership of draught
animals by a farmer is associated with a low school attendance by the
children of that family (Allagnat and Koroma, 1984). In such cases, a
research team may well be able to work with the farmers and their families
to devise grazing systems that require less child labour.
In addition to analyses of family farm economics and social systems, a
broader economic view is also required to identify possible new crop
combinations or selected services that could alter the profitability of
draught animal usage and so stimulate more rapid development. For example,
in several countries, the provision of a guaranteed market for cotton has
been instrumental in allowing many farmers to adopt animal traction, and
subsequently use it for a wide variety of crops and also for farm
- 28 -
7. STRATEGIES FOR IMPLEMENTATION
Examples have been provided of certain preconditions and constraints that
need to be considered if draught animal power development programmes in
Africa are to succeed. The implications of these for policies at national
or project level have been discussed, and some specific suggestions have
been given for priority areas for research, and appropriate methodologies.
In the event that some of these ideas be found acceptable, there is need
appraise the roles of the various bodies involved, and possible mechanisms
for implementing the objectives.
7.2. The role of national programmes
The key organizations in any strategy must be the national programmes, for
it is at national level that most decisions are taken in the allocation of
financial and manpower resources for agricultural research, training and
development. It is as a result of decisions at a national level that
localized project initiatives can be implemented. Given national support,
the local activities themselves can identify and perhaps remove limiting
constraints, thereby assisting the farmers in the specific areas.
It is therefore envisaged that selective and strategic support to key
national programmes should be made available, aimed specifically at
improving the level of information exchange within particular countries.
It has been noted that while international liaison relating to draught
animal power is clearly inadequate, within-country information exchange is
often particularly weak, and improved international liaison would be of
limited value unless it were associated with improved national information
flows (Starkey, 1986a). What is envisaged is not simply improved
"top-down" information dissemination, but genuine exchanges, with the
potential for valuable "grassroots-up" feedback at a national level, that
can, where appropriate, be further relayed to any international networking
structure. Thus one priority is the development of national initiatives
aimed at encouraging the multi-directional flow of information within
countries. These may involve national ministries, research centres,
universities or non-governmental organizations (NGOs), perhaps with
assistance from external donor agencies.
There are many different organizational ways of improving within-country
information exchange, and examples include national ministry and university
projects funded by local resources (Sierra Leone: Starkey and Kanu, 1986),
ministry projects supported with donor funding (Togo: Apetofia and Starkey,
1986), NGO initiatives in liaison with ministries and donors (Kenya:
Starkey and Goe, 1984), and activities stimulated and facilitated by
international aid agencies in association with local ministries (Tanzania:
ILO/FAO, 1985 and 1986). Such national level activities have involved
meetings or workshops of people from several disciplines involved in
research, extension and development relating to animal traction, the
circulation of locally produced reports and the dissemination of documents
received from elsewhere. It is considered that comparable initiatives will
be essential to allow the needs of the farmers to be conveyed to the
national level, while allowing the experience from other countries to be
effectively and widely shared. While the responsibility for such
within-country liaison clearly rests with the relevant national authorities
and organizations, external aid agencies can do much to stimulate or assist
national initiatives, and this has happened in several countries including
Guinea, Malawi and Zaire.
7.3. Study tours and workshops
Once within-country liaison is assured, much can be gained from exchange
between similar countries in a region. This may involve document exchange,
study visits and workshops. Study visits can be particularly valuable, as
they stimulate both sending and recipient organizations, and thereby allow
useful opportunities for reassessment of both programmes. It has often
been observed that a primary role of external consultants is to stimulate
self-assessment by projects, which thereby provide the "answers"
themselves. Study visits can provide similar opportunities, and have the
added benefit of representing two-way information exchange between
developing countries. However to be of full value, such visits should be
between countries that have good internal networking arrangements, so that
experiences are widely shared. For neighboring countries, study visits
can often be arranged using entirely local resources, as has been occurring
in the three countries of the Mano River Union, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra
Leone. However for more distant travel, external funding may be required,
and recently the Farming Systems Support Project (FSSP) of the University
of Florida has financed some study visits for West African animal traction
programmes, the experiences of which have been shared through reports and
meetings (Starkey and Apetofia, 1986). The scope for valuable study visits
in enormous, and includes the study of proven but novel technologies (such
as forest in Malawi, water extraction in Senegal and pond construction in
Ethiopia), the study, at an appropriate scale, of equipment manufacturing
and blacksmith training (with useful examples in Botswana, Senegal, Togo
and Zaire), and the study of multi-disciplinary research and extension
teams (for example that of Sierra Leone).
Workshops can be of great value in stimulating both formal and informal
information exchange both within and between countries. Recent initiatives
by CIMMYT (Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo) and FSSP
in organizing or stimulating subregional workshops on animal traction were
considered to have been intrinsically valuable at the time, and more
importantly of lasting value through the on-going follow-up exchanges that
resulted from such meetings (CIMMYT, 1984; Poats et al., 1986). For this
reason, such activities were called "networkshops" to combine the concepts
of a single workshop, with an evolving sub-regional network of individuals
and organizations. Much scope exists for further networkshops, and these
might be held at several levels involving participants from just one
country, two or more neighboring countries, or from a whole region or
Many of the benefits of study tours and workshops have been successfully
combined in the crop-livestock systems research monitoring tours of the
Asian Rice Farming System Network, coordinated by the International Rice
Research Institute, IRRI. These have involved international groups of
research workers, including representatives of animal traction programmes
in Africa, travelling extensively for two weeks to farm sites in several
locations in two countries, and combining discussions of the farming
systems observed with presentations of the work being undertaken by the
participants in their own countries (IRRI, 1985). Similar, but perhaps
less ambitious, multi-disciplinary farm visits and discussions could
usefully be employed for exchanging development and research experience
among draught animal power programmes in Africa (Starkey and Apetofia,
7.4. Role of aid agencies
The majority of animal traction development and research activities in
Africa are closely associated with one or more aid agency. The fact that
present information exchange is inadequate is a sad reflection on the past
inability of aid agencies to promote information exchange within and
between their organizations. For example if all the animal traction
projects supported by any one multilateral or bilateral agency were aware
of the experience of the other programmes in Africa supported by that same
agency, major improvements in all such projects could be expected. If
similar information exchange could be developed between different aid
agencies, there would be few programmes in Africa left without knowledge of
each other. Thus the different aid agencies could easily and inexpensively
provide an invaluable service simply by facilitating exchange of
information between the projects they assist, and providing present
projects with copies of evaluation reports of past programmes.
Inter-agency cooperation could be even more valuable. While it is
recognized that the complex departmental and hierarchical structures of
many development agencies may make this difficult to achieve, it is
nevertheless an important goal to be aspired to. As several Africans have
observed, a network of donor agencies might have as much impact on
information exchange as a network of national programmes (Starkey and Goe,
The more obvious method whereby aid agencies can help animal traction in
Africa is through direct assistance to national programmes to enable them
to undertake the recommended development and research activities and
through support to information exchange initiatives such as workshops,
study tours and the preparation and dissemination of reports. The emphasis
should always be on enhanced utilization of local personnel and resources,
and the development of systems of farming, research, extension, training
and information exchange that can be continued using resources that will be
realistically available at the end of the period of support.
7.5. The role of international research organizations
Several international research institutions are involved in research
relating to animal traction in Sub-Saharan Africa, including the
International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA), CIMMYT, the International
Centre for Research in the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). In addition some
research organizations in developed countries are associated with draught
animal programmes in Africa, and these include the French Centre d'Etudes
et d'Experimentation du Machinisme Agricole Tropical (CEEMAT), the British
Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine (CTVM) and the National Institute
of Agricultural Engineering (NIAE). These could all assist through
enhanced information exchange, support of liaison activities (study tours
and workshops), training of research workers, carrying out collaborative
research with national programmes and undertaking fundamental research
where this is indicated. Some of these organizations are indeed doing
this. Several of the organizations might enhance the direct benefits of
their work by reorientating some of their own activities along the lines
indicated in Section 5. This might include the careful prioritization of
research areas, further emphasis on realistic economic parameters and
low-cost technologies and an enhanced distinction in their publicity
between research results which are encouraging and technology proven by
genuine farmer adoption. The international centres could also provide
valuable services by publishing comprehensive reviews of research on
draught animal power, including, wherever practical, analyses of the impact
of the research. Although it might not be a popular subject for review,
much benefit could come from analyses of "failures" of research and
7.6. The role of newsletters
As noted, one vital objective is the improvement of information exchange
relating to draught animal power at national, regional and international
level. One relatively simple method of improving information exchange is
through a newsletter. One such newsletter, Draught Animal News, already
exists, and is published in both French and English by the Centre for
Tropical Veterinary Medicine in Edinburgh. A further one, to be included
within World Animal Review, is being planned by FAO (Van Vaerenbergh,
1985). Such newsletters could play invaluable roles, but they face two
major problems. Firstly, they require good circulation, and at present
neither Draught Animal News nor World Animal Review is received by the
great majority of projects or organizations actually undertaking research,
extension and training in this field. Secondly, there is the problem of
ensuring that the information circulated stimulates the more constructive
utilization of existing resources that is envisaged. For example, while
disseminating details of prototype equipment designs or novel nutritional
supplements should be valuable in preventing unnecessary duplication of
studies, it may not be desirable to stimulate similar component research in
these areas. As noted earlier, it is not unusual for articles to be
published that are highly optimistic about the prospects for innovations
that have not been proven by farmer adoption, and such presentations may
well lead others to prematurely follow research leads. The danger of
unintentionally encouraging unproductive developments and research
strategies through improved information exchange should therefore be
recognized. The multi-disciplinary nature of draught animal newsletters
should do much to promote a holistic approach to problems, but very careful
editorial discretion will be required to allow readers to clearly
differentiate between unproven studies and proven experience. It is not
envisaged that problems will be encountered in obtaining newsletter
contributions, for responses to recent verbal and written requests have
shown that much valuable information on draught animal power can be
solicited from many countries in Africa (Starkey, 1985b; Starkey and Goe,
7.7. Establishment of a draught animal power network
The overall aim of this discussion has been to encourage the more effective
use of present resources through carefully prioritized development and
research activities and improved information exchange. One possible means
of assisting this would be the establishment of a network of organizations
involved in research and development in Africa. A network is simply a
formal or informal association of institutions (or individuals) that are
aware of each other and which can easily exchange information with each
other. If research and development workers within such institutions become
aware of each others successes and failures, there can be opportunities to
build on each others' experience.
Ideally such a network would be run by and for the developing countries
themselves, on the basis of technical cooperation between developing
countries (TCDC). However aid agencies and international research centres
would be closely associated with such a network, and they could help in
facilitating initial arrangements and in obtaining the necessary funding to
start the network. Indeed FAO and ILCA have already jointly sounded out
opinion in 13 African countries, and it was found that all countries
considered that a TCDC network was both desirable and feasible. (Imboden
et al., 1983; Starkey and Goe, 1984 and 1985). Operational details of
such a network would be a matter for the developing countries themselves
and the facilitating organizations, and various suggestions have already
been put forward and are under discussion (Starkey and Goe, 1985).
However, it must be stressed that any proposed network would not be an end
in itself, but merely one useful mechanism whereby individuals and
countries can share their experience, and that of their farmers, and so
enable development and research activities in draught animal power to be
more effectively utilized to assist the farmers and countries of Africa.
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