Mechanizing Agriculture Across Sub-Saharan Africa with the Multi-Crop Thresher
Many smallholder farmers in the tropics do not have access to durable and affordable harvest equipment such as crop threshers. Manual threshing, disproportionally carried out by women and young people, is labor-intensive and time-consuming.
The Soybean Innovation Lab’s multi-crop thresher reduces threshing time by 80 percent, requires only 2 operators, and results in a post-harvest loss of less than 2 percent. It is designed to be quickly and easily switched between crops by changing out a perforated metal sieve concave. The hole sizes of the sieve depend on local crops and their average seed sizes, but in most locales only two sieves are needed: one for maize, beans, and other large-seeded crops; and another for soybean, rice, and grains of smaller size. The thresher sits on a metal frame with four wheels and can be powered with a diesel engine or a tractor power takeoff.
Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) is creating a local, skilled workforce for the fabrication of low-cost, locally-produced, multi-crop thresher to address the challenges of availability and affordability that prevent many smallholder farmers from scaling up their agricultural production. Locally-made also means locally-repaired. Local fabricators listen to customer needs and can customize equipment for individual or groups of end-users, and can provide maintenance and repair services locally.
For each training, the in-country partner recruits the fabricators, finds the training facility, finances the materials for production, and supports the trainees with food during the training hours. SIL can train 10–20 people at a time and build 1–3 threshers during the week-long training. Each machine produced by the newly empowered fabricators has the potential to serve 200 farmers and reduce two weeks of stick threshing per acre of crop to four hours labor with the SIL mechanized multi-crop thresher.
Starting with just 12 fabricators from Ghana in 2016, the Innovation Lab has now trained 167 fabricators across 9 Sub-Saharan African countries to build, service, and maintain threshers that can handle common bean, cowpea, maize, millet, rice, sorghum, and soybean.
If you’d like to learn more about how to become an in-country partner to train young people to manufacture, operate, and repair the SIL multi-crop thresher, or are interested in getting a thresher yourself, please contact Dr. Kerry Clark, Mechanization Lead, Soybean Innovation Lab, and Director of CAFNR International Programs and Assistant Research Professor, University of Missouri.