PhilMech’s cassava digger reduces labor up to 88%

 

Cassava is one of the most versatile agricultural crops. It has been characterized as a subsistence crop, and one of the most widely cultivated root crops in the tropics because of its long growth season production. The crop, mainly used for food, can also be used as raw material for industrial uses. According to the Philippine Statistical Authority, in 2016 cassava production reached 

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2.71 million metric tons (mmt) and cultivated to roughly 223,000 hectares.

One of the major concerns, that beset the cassava industry, is low productivity and lack of farm machineries. In view of the increasing demand for cassava and its economic contribution in the crops sub-sector, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has crafted the national cassava development plan that will address low productivity; make use of high-yielding varieties; adopt recommended crop production technologies; address inadequate credit, financing, limited mechanization, and postharvest equipment, among others.

Among the identified strategies to boost cassava production was the provision of a mechanized cassava harvesting equipment. The lack of mechanized equipment has been one of the clamors among cassava growers, particularly the food and industrial processors. It has been observed that the insufficiency of equipment in harvesting operations entails tedious and longer working hours that could result to additional labor cost for farm owners, thus affecting farm-gate prices. Further, farm productivity could also be affected. From the viewpoint of harvesting, a farmer can harvest around 500 kilograms a day and around 20 persons are needed to harvest a hectare.

In view of increasing unavailability of farm labor especially during harvest season, farmers are expressing the need for a mechanized harvester.

To aid in the cassava development plan, the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), in collaboration with the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), to fabricate a cassava digger to help farmers on the rigors of harvesting, and lessen production cost. The project, “Enhancing Agricultural Mechanization Technologies for Crop Production and Post-Harvest Processing of Cassava” is funded under the Asian Food and Agriculture Cooperation Initiative (AFACI) of South Korea, of which, the Philippines is a member-country.

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Project leader, Dr. Romualdo Martinez of PhilMech cited that AFACI project aimed to: 1) develop and establish appropriate cassava mechanization     technologies for crop production and postharvest processing that are suited to the requirements of cassava farmers (and other end-users) and their local   conditions; 2) assess technical feasibility and economic viability of established cassava mechanization technologies; 3) enhance farmers access to improve   cassava mechanization technologies; and 4) foster stronger network among AFACI-participating countries to facilitate exchange of technologies and best   practices.

The prototype fabrication of the cassava digger, which started in 2013, was part of the partnership between PhilMech and AFACI. According to Dr.   Martinez,  the technical and socio-economic studies were conducted in the provinces of Isabela, Pampanga, Leyte, Bukidnon and South Cotabato, while the   prototype was pre-tested in the provinces of Isabela and Quirino and passed the required specifications needed to operate.

 

Feedbacks gathered from farmers and other stakeholders showed that the use of the cassava digger reduced labor requirement up to 88 percent.   Obtained 100 percent and 81 percent in terms of harvesting time and losses, respectively. Furthermore, majority of the stakeholders expressed their interest to use   the digger.

The AFACI project played a key role in introducing mechanized harvesting of cassava in the Philippines. In collaboration with project counterpart from Thailand, a tractor drawn digging implement was localized, evaluated and further developed. The cassava digger was eventually promoted, adopted by farmers and commercially manufactured. The project demonstrated the importance of inter-country collaboration for rapid introduction and adoption of appropriate technologies. ### (Patrick Raymund A. Lesaca)

 

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