In the Andean city of Cuzco, Luis Sumar Kalinowski has created a seeder capable of handling kiwicha,16 whose seeds are as small as sand grains. It is a simple, almost cost-free device that can sow large areas evenly and in uniform rows. It may also work well with Africa's small seeds.
One version of the Sumar seeder uses a scrap piece of plastic pipe with a foam-plastic cup taped to the end.17 A nail is pushed gently through the bottom of the cup to leave a hole of known diameter. Another version employs a commercially available plastic end piece, which is drilled to provide the hole. In either case, seed placed in the pipe trickles out at a constant rate, and the farmer can vary the seeding density by walking faster or slower.
Indeed, by measuring the flow of seed through the hole, it is easy to calculate how fast to walk (in paces per minute, for example) to sow the desired density of seed. With a little practice, the farmer can attain an accuracy rivaling that of mechanical drills. For the method to work, however, it is important that the seeds be clean and free of straw, small stones, or other debris that could block the hole.
Engineers at Morogoro have designed and developed a low-cost, hand-operated device known as the Magulu hand planter. It includes an attachment that can be fastened to a hand hoe and can be used to plant both maize and beans in a straight row. It is said that to plant a hectare of land using the Magulu hand planter takes between 18 and 27 man-hours as compared with 80 man-hours using the conventional method of planting by hand hoe.
The Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), which is located near Bangkok, has developed a mechanical seeder that is now being popularized in many Asian countries. In one stroke, this so-called "jab seeder" makes a hole, drops a seed, and covers the site, without the operator ever having to bend over.
The seeder weighs only about 1.5 kg and costs about US$10.00 (including labor, materials, and mark-up). In Thailand, a farmer can
For more information, contact Luis Sumar Kalinowski, Centro de Investigaciones de Cultivos Andinos. Universidad Nacional Técnica del Altiplano, Avenida de la Infancia N" 440. Huanchac, Cuzco, Peru.
This crop (Amaranthus candatus). a species of amaranth. is discussed in the companion volume Lost Crops of the Incas. (For a list of BOSTID publications, see page 377.)
It is not necessary for the pipe to be plastic. Any tube—bamboo, cardboard, or other material—will do. However, standard household water pipe and the disposable coffee cups common in many countries fit together well. Also, the foam-type cups are easy to pierce with a nail, and they leave a clean, smooth hole. Caps with different-sized holes can be kept on hand for use with different crops.
T.E. Simalenga and N. Hatibu, Department of Agricultural Engineering, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Morogoro, Tanzania.