Tiller Innovation to Enhance Smallholder Farmer’s Production

Farmer Support Group (FSG) in collaboration with STIHL had a tiller demonstration at Ukulinga UKZN Research Farm on 11 September 2015. Smallholder farmers in South Africa rely to a large extent on human muscle to prepare their land.  Such tools have implicit limitations in terms of energy and operational output. At time, tractors which are way too big for the sizes of land operated by smallholder farmers, are hired – resulting in under utilisation. Shortage of draught power is often the reason for the delays in planting – leading to loss of production potential.  The new tiller by STIHL has potential to allow smallholder farmers to increase productivity as they will be able to work in larger plots within a very short time. FSG brought 30 farmers from Msinga and Bergville to attend the demonstration. The demonstration was also attended by officials from the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and academics from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

The tiller is well suited for small plots such as gardens. Its adoption in South African smallholder farming landscape could prove to be an historic landmark. The tiller is light and easy to use. Upon assemblage, the tiller was tested to ensure its workability and at the end of which the smallholder farmers expressed satisfaction with its performance. Farmers were given a chance to operate the tiller.

The tiller has detachable implements which include a plough/ridger and therefore has multiple functions such as ploughing, weeding and ridging.  It operates on petrol. The farmers were keen to know the performance of the machine, e.g., how much fuel it uses per unit area, whether the tiller can operate on rough surfaces, its cost price and the durability. Representatives from STIHL pointed out that the area covered would depend on the texture of the surface being ploughed.  It was also noted that the tiller works just like a normal plough, meaning that using it on hard and very dry surfaces is not recommended. Its durability will depend on how the owners handle it. In terms of the costs, the machine costs about R 14 000 without implements and R 18 000 with implements. In light of the fact that this was just a demonstration, not all questions could be answered fully.  Besides, the tiller still has to be tested in various places.

The farmers also enquired on where they would get assistance should they need to repair or purchase new parts for the tiller and they were informed that STIHL has dealers who can service the machinery throughout the province, including stations in Bergville and Greytown.

In conclusion, farmers were very enthusiastic about the tiller and indicated that they would definitely use it on their fields