Thoughts Of A Designer Of Animaldrawn Equipment

by Jean Nolle

For several years, people have asked me: "Why do you invent new animal-drawn machinery when draft animals have almost disappeared? Why do you persevere in this misguided way when everything proves now that mankind is setting up his future on a highly developed technological base? What are your reasons for dedicating your life to the rescue of draft animals?"

Before 1 try to answer, I must first correct a mistake in the question. I do not dedicate my life to the rescue of draft animals, but to the development of die forgotten farmers.

That being said, I can explain that for 27 years, I have been involved in agriculture in almost all tropical countries. Since I was working alone, perhaps the modesty of my labor kept me safe from the noise around and allowed me to continue the same point of view for so long a time. Many developments have altered specific actions in machinery design, but there has been no deviation in nay intentions.

I developed a new technology in matters of animal-drawn machinery for small agriculture for several reasons. The first was opportunity. In 1950 in Senegal, there were two large farms of 5,000 hectares each. They were set up to grow peanuts, and equipped with heavy-duty tractors and sophisticated implements. Both went bankrupt in 1954. The reasons were said to be climate, soil, plants, and human population.

Both of them were obliged to change their ways. At the first one, located in the Casamance region of south Senegal, the tse-tse flies prevented the use of draft animals so the farm continued its use of heavy-duty tractors, with the farmers using traditional hand tools.

The second, named Seeteur de Modernization Agricole (S.M.A.) was located in central Senegal where tse tse flies were unknown. As this farm was a state enterprise, the government decided to improve the animal-drawn machinery there. I was engaged by the S.M.A. from 1954 to 1958 with carte btancke to conceive, realize, experiment with and develop various animal-drawn machines.

I had to discover a formula that made possible the farmers' evolution from extensive methods to intensive ones. I had to find a solution to the width, the length, and the solidity of my future machines. 1 had to invent some ways to stimulate the curiosity of the farmers in order to make them understand without any teacher the laws of the interdependence between various farming operations.

It was quite a challenge to discover a single formula that could answer these diverse questions. However, it exists. Its name: polyvalence, or versatility.

To be successful in the tropics or with small-scale agriculture anywhere, a machine must be versatile. This adaptability is the strength of tractors with three-point hitches, and it applies to animal-drawn implements as well. In the design of agricultural machines, the main aspects of this versatility are the ability to adjust track width and the ability of the chassis to accept numerous implements. Next in importance is the means used to change the track and to attach the implements.

Single-purpose machines have their own chassis. Multipurpose machines, on the other hand, use the same chassis for many tasks. Of course, if the price of a multipurpose chassis is higher than that of several single-purpose chassis, the purpose is defeated. Likewise, if the device required to fit the various implements on the multipurpose machine is too complicated, farmers will not change them and the machine will be single-purpose anyway.

To meet these requirements, I had to design several chassis to meet the needs of farms ranging in size from two to 20 hectares. While the dimensions of the chassis varied, the hitching device was to be standard. At first, nuts and bolts seemed the simplest solution, but bolts require fixed holes in both the chassis and the tools, thereby limiting their versatility and ultimately weakening the chassis. Nuts and bolts are also subject to rust, and eventually require a hammer and chisel to remove them. In reality, the farmer rarely does this, and the machine becomes single-purpose once again.

My solution was to design a special type of U-shaped clamp. Each branch of the clamp is dug with a square hole, and the bottom of the clamp has an eye screw. Square holes are very helpful as they permit tools to be attached to any part of the chassis without drilling holes in the chassis.

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