A Ghanaian agricultural engineer, Kingsley Ankukumah, has developed a manual pruner to encourage routine cocoa farm pruning for higher yield.
According to him, the tool is designed to end the drudgery farmers endure in applying good agricultural practices (GAPs) like pruning, due to the lack of appropriate tools.
The innovative equipment consists of a lightweight extendable galvanized pole and two stainless steel blades, a pruner and a sickle.
“With this product, the farmer’s challenge of using heavy bamboo poles affixed with sickle or machete is over because the tool is made of lightweight, quality and durable material”, chief executive of Agrifix Express Kingsley Ankukumah explained.
External consultant of Agrifix Express, Engineer Mac Makafui Amedzi, said the pruner and sickle blades are made from durable stainless steel, thus hardly breaks, thereby serving the farmer longer and helps achieve more in a short time.
The tool has an easy to operate locking system that allows for quick blade replacement.
Growing and harvesting of cocoa in Ghana is a labour intensive venture. A vast majority of farmers rely on basic implements like the machete in farm management.
Research has revealed these challenges as significant disincentives to young people desirous of investing in farming. The situation is worrying for a country like Ghana with an ageing farmer population.
Mr Ankukumah said designing innovative solutions to the challenges that confront farmers is a strong motivation to the team of machine design engineers, agricultural engineers and fabrication experts at Agrifix Express.
Their goal, he added, is to make cocoa farming attractive to all in the context of farm tool.
Cocoa production experts say a good pruning regime is beneficial in increasing crop yield and help reduce the application of chemicals for pest and disease control.
Research shows that well-pruned cocoa farms may not need fertilizer to be productive.
Pruning facilitates aeration and sunlight penetration and prevents moss formation and mistletoe infestation.
Ghana Cocoa Board recently introduced motorised pruner and slasher. Although procuring one hundred thousand pieces for cocoa farmer cooperatives nationwide, a lot more ensure every farm is adequately covered.
For Ankukumah and his Agrifix team, their manual pruner-cum-harvester should serve as a great compliment to COCOBOD’s effort at scaling the national cocoa farm pruning exercise.
“Helping our cocoa farmers to be able to undertake pruning and other beneficial modern farming practices in a tireless manner is our cardinal mission for developing this piece of equipment. We understand that when the farmer is successful, then Ghana is successful”, Joshua Oluwadare Agrifix Express CAD engineer intimated.
He noted, “we are developing several other approtech tools to provide practical and affordable solutions to challenges to cocoa and food production.”
So far the team have successfully produced over one thousand of the manual pruner-cum-harvester with their locally-assembled CNC laser cutting machine.
The implement is already in use by Cocoa farmers in the Central, Ashanti, Eastern, Bono and Ahafo regions. A few have also been sent to Liberia and Sierra Leone for trial.
The team lead, Mr Ankukumah, disclosed that Agrifix Express has partnered with the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI) to train the youth in the fabrication of the tool for a living. He was hopeful that with government assistance they could build the capacity to scale up production as there is demand for the product.