ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Farm Mechanization & Conservation Agriculture for Sustainable Intensification (2013-2017)

Strategic Research Area

Improving Rural Livelihoods and Environments in Developing Countries

Food Security and Regional Australia


Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) Total: $544,574.00

Investigators/ Researchers

Professor Max Finlayson, Professor John Blackwell & Associate Professor Branka Krivokapic-Skoko


Two wheel tractor

The need for sustainable intensification in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is widely recognized. Although a lot of emphasis is being placed on current research for development work on increasing the efficiency with which land, water and nutrients are being used, farm power appears to be a 'forgotten resource'.

Photo Trial of the two wheel tractor in the field (Arusha,Tanzania, March 2013)

However, farm power in SSA countries is declining due to the collapse of most tractor hire schemes; the decline in number of draught animals; and the decline in human labour (e.g. stemming from rural-urban migration and pandemics). A consequence of low farm mechanization is high labour drudgery, which affects women disproportionally (in, e.g. weeding, threshing, shelling and transport by head-loading). Sustainable intensification in SSA requires an improvement of the farm power balance through increased power supply - via improved access to mechanization - and/or reduced power demand via energy saving technologies such as conservation agriculture (CA).

The overall goal of the project is to improve access to mechanization, reduce labour drudgery, and minimize biomass trade-offs in Eastern and Southern Africa, through accelerated delivery and adoption of Two Wheeled Tractor (2WT)-based technologies by smallholders.

The project has four principal objectives:

  • To evaluate and demonstrate 2WT-based technologies to support CA systems, using expertise and implements from Africa, South Asia and Australia
  • To test site-specific commercial systems to deliver 2WT-based mechanization
  • To identify improvements in national institutions and policies for wide adoption of 2WT-based mechanization
  • To improve capacity and create awareness of 2WT-based technologies in the sub-region, and share knowledge and information with other regions.

The project has been implemented in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe and employs a range of methodologies including:

  • on-station and participatory on-farm evaluation of 2WT-based technologies;
  • business model development;
  • institution and policy analysis;
  • establishment of a permanent knowledge platform;
  • establishment of an international mentoring platform aimed at building research capacity in national research stations and non-government organisations by funding mentoring and training visits from countries such as Australia and India, and exchange visits between Africa and Australia/South Asia.

A common monitoring and evaluation system including gender disaggregated data was developed.

While the researchers encountered many obstacles in the procurement and/or building of seeders suitable for two wheeled tractors, they reported that great progress had and was being made in the quest for the selection of the 'best bet' machines under the various conditions experienced in the four countries. Station and farm demonstration trials are continuing with the results being analysed by the countries themselves, with help from the International Wheat and Maize Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) in Nairobi and Ethiopia.

Combining the experiences of all four countries from the agronomic and machinery trials and testing, the same machine stands out in all countries for both row planting of maize, the Fitarelli 2 row seeder and the Morrison, and for the planting of wheat, the 2BFG. These seeders will be used in any future financial or business analysis. Development of the other seeders including the FACASI designed Zimbabwe hybrid has been a bonus to the project.

Further work is being done to develop self-lifting mechanisms and ride on seats for other seeders. In many cases the development of ancillary equipment for attachment to has been seen as important as the seeder approach. Of these, threshing and transport are the most regularly reported to the FACASI teams who are greatly assisting in the design, manufacture, demonstration and promotion of the trailer/thresher/forage cutter concept.

The researchers are recommending that continued testing and trialing of the chosen machines is necessary and innovative improvements to overcome arising problems must be encouraged as should dialogue on all outcomes between the four countries.

Accordingly they are seeking an extension to the project to:

  • understand early adoption resulting from FACASI (specifically in two sites in Eastern and Southern Africa where early adoption is taking place
  • study the profitability of and business case for investment in service provision and other business models
  • assess the value of training and information sharing
  • resolve second generation technological challenges emerging during early adoption.


A study trip to Australia in 2015 for eight visitors from four African countries (Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia) hosted by the National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture (NCEA), University of Southern Queensland.

The development of a FACASI designed Zimbabwe hybrid 2WT.


A large body of knowledge will be generated and strong linkages amongst stakeholders (including private sector players involved in business models) will be established. Thus, at the end of the project, it is anticipated that ~360 rural service providers would have emerged, ~9,900 farms would benefit from 2WT-based CA, and ~25,200 farms would benefit from 2WT-based transport, threshing and/or shelling. Service providers expected to double their income. Smallholders adopting 2WT-based CA are expected to increase their income by 50%. Smallholders adopting 2WT-based transport, threshing and shelling are expected to increase their income by 20%.

Such an adoption pathway would translate into an approximate cumulative economic value of US$ 19 million at the end of the project.


Dr Branka Krivokapic-Skoko
CSU Bathurst

Professor John Blackwell
CSU Wagga Wagga

April 2017