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Mechanisation eliminates human error, nuisance

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Kudakwashe Gwabanayi
Journalist

THERE are many farming projects that have folded because farm workers failed to follow simple instructions given to them by their superiors. In some instances, sheer laziness on the workers’ part has left many farmers counting their losses.

Farmworkers contribute 60% to the success of any project and thus are an integral part of operations.

However, being human, they, in most cases, do the job that they know the farmer will inspect, not the one that the farmer wants to be done.

Often farmworkers put up a show to please the farmer when he/she is present and hence the need to be always on the farm to supervise operations.

But then again it is impossible to be there 24/7 because at times the farmer needs to take their produce to the market, while at other times he/she may also need to get supplies for the farm.

The best way to go about this is to put systems that ensure that work is done even in the absence of the farmer. However, resources permitting, one can make use of machines to reduce headaches associated with human capital.

More often than not, farmers start small. That way, they get to see if the project they are into is worth their while or not. However, there comes a time when the farmer actually outgrows his/her space and begins to need bigger things to achieve certain goals in their endeavours. The same can be said in farming. A lot of people decided to start small, and have been doing well, but it is now time to consider growing bigger.

It does not matter whether one is on a small piece of land or a very big one, the proceeds of one season must be used to advance operations of the next through mechanisation. The budgeting and planning must start immediately and ongoing.

The good thing about mechanising one’s farm operations is that it eliminates human error. Various farming projects have folded just because the workers did not do what they were instructed to do. With technological advances and new-age living, farmers need to embrace working more with machines than people.

With the Covid-19 pandemic that has limited movement and gathering of people, it has become prudent that machines, no matter how small be put to use.

That machinery saves on time cannot be disputed; as well as the fact that it brings precision to farming operations.

An example is that of a planter in this farming season. If a farmer wants to plant 10 ha of maize or sugarbeans using labour, he will require about 40 workers and it would take him about two days. This is because on the first day they need to mark rows where they will plant and then put basal fertiliser. On the second day, they will then be putting the seed to the ground, but they may actually not be able to finish on the day.

On the other hand a farmer with a tractor and a planter would need at most three workers who will finish the job within four hours.

While time has been saved, you would also appreciate that the planter would be more precise with spacing and would put more seed on the ground per any given time than human labour. In addition there would be no seed and fertiliser theft fears.

Even the “cellphone farmers” can afford not to be at the farm because work would have been simplified.

There are farmers out there with more than 300 hectares of land that is being manned by 10 machine-operating workers and are doing very well. Of course, they will be limited to animal husbandry or to field crops that are usually harvested by the combined harvester.

Irrigation system

The centre pivot has taken the farming community by storm. Everywhere you go around Zimbabwe you find these gigantic trussed watering motors in action and are popular for providing absolute watering solutions to your crops.

Gone are the days when wheat farmers required at least 50 sprinklers to water 50 hectares. A contingent of at least 12 people was required to change and move the position of the sprinklers. In addition, they also had to be very alert because at times, the sprinklers would not rotate.

But with the centre pivot just one worker is enough to switch it on and it does its work and the worker does not need to stay there but can actually go and do some other work while the machine works independently.

In horticulture, greenhouses, drip irrigation systems and chemicals have made it possible for farmers to operate with few workers with less hustle.

Inventors have produced a weed-eater to eliminate hoe-weeding in farms.

 Animal husbandry

There are those farmers who are into animal husbandry who can make use of GPS trackers to look after their goats, sheep or cattle. The GPS tracker doubles up as a keeper and security feature in that even if the animals are stolen one can easily recover them because they would be on 24 hour surveillance.

If one is into milk production, it is prudent to invest in a milking machine as it reduces the contamination of milk as well as saves the cow from diseases that may be caused by the poor hygiene of the workers. A battery powered milking machine costs US$100 and it can be used even by subsistence farmers.

Chicken producers are now using air-conditioned systems for mass production of birds in small areas.

Wall mounted drinkers are also being put to use to reduce the number of workers one needs to feed the passel in pig production.

There are so many machines that are being invented by researchers to improve farming operations. It is up to farmers to move with the times and be able to get maximum yield from little effort.

  • Gwabanayi is a practising journalist and a farmer in his own right. — 0772 865 703 or gwabanayi@gmail.com

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