The Crop Research Institute (CRI) of the Centre for Scientific Research Institute (CSRI) has made a giant stride to ease the stress associated with the harvesting of cassava with the invention of a manual harvester.
Christened the CRI-Manual Harvester, the equipment was perfected after a four-year research by an employee of CRI, Mr Shadrack Kwadwo Amponsah, as part of his Master’s programme at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
It is aimed at reducing the drudgery associated with existing harvesting tools.
The breakthrough was made possible with funding from the Brazilian Agric Research Corporation.
A first attempt at producing the equipment by the International Institute of Agriculture in Ibadan, Nigeria, was botched, following which the Ghanaian scientist spent four years to redesign and perfect it.
The CRI is to engage local artisans to be trained to produce the equipment to make it available to farmers.
If successful, the harvester will be certified and embossed by the institute to make it credible and acceptable by farmers.
The tool basically operates on two principles—‘grip and lift’ and ‘dig and lift’. It consists of a frame to which an immovable gripping jaw is attached and a chisel tip which serves as the base for lifting cassava from the soil.
The chisel-like tip, employing the first principle, can also be used to dig out cassava roots especially in hard and dry soils where the ‘grip and lift’ principle becomes difficult to employ because of the tendency of high root tuber breakage.
Under the second principle, the gripping jaw has a mechanical advantage of being thrust into the soil to make uprooting easier while standing.
The plant is cut to the stalk level of approximately one foot and the chisel is thrust under the cassava root and lifted.
The inventor, Mr Amponsah, has taken a number of farmers, extension officers and agric experts through a field demonstration in Kumasi, where after an hour of practical work, they were able to operate the harvester with ease.
They were also schooled about how to maintain the machine and some of its auxiliaries, which if not properly done could reduce the lifespan of the equipment.
The exact price for each harvester is yet to be fixed, but Mr Amponsah said it would not cost more than GH¢100.