First Year Tractor Results Show We Can Do It!

Here is the entire Report. At the end you can see the conclusion that the Tractor Loan is paid off in two years, and that the yearly income from there on out is $10,000 USD per year in a rural area where the average income is under $1000. That will certainly create the local economy we are hoping to introduce across the villages of rural Zambia.

After a careful analysis of the metrics involved and in consultation with several other stakeholders, mainly the members of Mushalesa multipurpose co-operative society in Lufunsa District, east of Lusaka, the project was finally launched and commenced in late August, 2011.

One of the COPE project trainers Mr. Collins K. Mbewe was given the opportunity to pioneer this program on the pilot basis since he was a farmer right at the same village where the COPE project was conducting its training activities.

Therefore, seed money amounting to K 40.000.000 (USD,7.692) was sourced by our friends and cooperating partners, the Earth Charter US, and given to the Coop. In turn, the Coop loaned the funds, at 15% interest, to enable Collins to purchase the two-wheel tractor and other accessories, including the trailer and an irrigation pump that go with it.

Apart from the above machinery, part of the money was to enable Collins to buy fuel, seeds and engine oil for the tractor’s smooth operation. Finally, the money was transferred from the USA into the COPE account in Zambia.

 

Under the contract, Mr. Collins Mbewe was given authority to use the money according to the prescribed project description and other related activities that would have seemed important in his pursuit of the success of the project. As part of the plan, Collins was also given a grace period for the first farming season in which he was exempted from servicing the loan. The interest rate was pegged at 15% per year, much lower than the official bank borrowing rates in Zambia. Agricultural and micro-loans in Zambia typically have interest rates at 30% or higher, and require payback to start at one month.

So according to the contract, Collins Mbewe was supposed to start servicing his loan the next farming season which was 2012/2013 farming season.

Collins left Lusaka on Thursday 17th May, 2011 at around 12:30 hrs noon. The tractor was loaded on a pick-up truck together with the tractor, rotator and all implements that Collins purchased from CAMCO Equipment Limited, suppliers of the Two-Wheel tractors. CAMCO is a Chinese company registered in Zambia that supplies agriculture equipment directly to the Zambian Market.

Collins arrived in Chongwe at his farm the same day, Thursday at about 15:00hrs. He managed to off load tractor with the help of the Chilupula Village Community. He had to use Man-Power because there was no fork lift service available in the village. They safely unloaded and finally had the tractor at his farm grounds. The people from the villages around came and had a look at the new farming machine with curious eyes and smiles on their faces. It was a happy moment for all.

Collins managed to organize a meeting with the co-operative members to explain how he will be able to conduct his farming business and services which Collins will be offering to them and other villagers. He also had an opportunity to carry-out a demonstration exercise with the new tractor.

The main crop that Collins planted was maize or corn . Maize is the staple food of the majority of indigenous Zambians. When one talks of food security in Zambia, one is merely referring to maize growing.

On about three hectares of land, Collins planted maize. He also planted ground-nuts (peanuts), pumpkins, and beans. Corn was grown both for consumption as well as for income. Corn is also very important in the Zambian village because it can be used to buy labour at the farm. Take for instance, if one intends to cut down trees or clear the land for planting, then one can exchange it with labour using the barter system. Beans were also grown for consumption and for sale at the village- level market, because there are few farmers who grow beans. Pumpkins are mainly for consumption since they provide valuable vitamin ‘C ‘ which is very important to our health, especially children. Finally, he also planted some Moringa trees (to be used for consumption and for medicinal purposes).The Moringa tree(or wonder tree) has surprisingly more numerous health and medicinal values that one can derive from a single tree than any other plant known so far.

The normal rainfall pattern in Zambia starts from late October and ends in late March. Almost all major farming activities undertaken by peasants and small scale farmers in Zambia is rain fed farming. However, due to climate change the rainfall pattern has undergone major changes. As a result, the rain season is now shorter, and rains are unpredictable. Usually there are droughts and when it rains, then people experience floods that often destroy crops. During the last farming season (2011/2012), there was little rain that started late and ended early.

Beside planting the above-mentioned crops, Collins also started experimenting on growing green vegetables like rape, spinach, cabbages and tomatoes on a small scale. The main aim of this experiment was first, to have a source of food, but also sell the surplus to the local villagers before he ventures into the large scale supply of vegetables to bigger markets, such as Lusaka and the nearby Chongwe Town.

The tractor hiring services was also undertaken especially around nearby villages. The charge per hectare was K 400,000=00, harrowing was pegged at half the price of plowing, which is K 200,000=00.

 

Being the first time he used the tractor, Collins had very few customers because he was very busy working in his own farm. But not withstanding this, he managed to raise an equivalent of

K 2.500.000=00 or about US $480.70 from the tractor hire services.

However, for those extremely poor households who did not have ready cash to pay for the plowing services, Collins would enter into an agreement to be paid maize after the farmers harvest their farm products at the end of the farming season. So altogether, Collins is expecting to get between 80 and 100 bags of maize under this kind of arrangement, which is equivalent to K5000,000=00 (about,US $961.5).

Collins encountered many challenges during the first year of his tractor pilot project, such as competition with ox-drawn animals, mechanical problems,time management, tractor breakdowns, and land preparation, to mention but a few.

Despite a tractor being a machine and doing work very quickly, Collins had stiff competition with those who own oxen. This contributed to his loss of potential customers. So in order to compete, he opted to engage those villagers who could not manage to pay cash for hiring services, but who had agreed to pay him in form of maize after harvesting season. This increased the capacity of even the poorest farmers to grow crops.

Also managing his fields while managing other villagers fields for hire posed a big challenge. So, sometimes he just hired extra labour to go and plow on his behalf. Plowing is also tiresome and backbreaking, hence the need for him to hire extra labour. Collins paid them money or even plowed their fields, or both as a form of payment.

Mechanical problems were partly a result of lack of expertise in operating the two-wheel tractor since this was Collins first time to use it. Further, when the land is not leveled properly, the machine gave him problems. For example, whenever one wheel of the tractor enters into a hole, even a shallow one, then the tractor will stop or overturn. Once the tractor overturns, to bring it back on track was also a big challenge in that he needed about four or even five big guys to help him lift the tractor up again.

The fields also needed to be cleared of all the trees and tree stumps including the roots for the tractor to operate at its best. The rotavator (the implement that acts as harrow), when it came into contact with some roots in the soil, stopped suddenly causing the tractor to crash.

Another mechanical challenge was in setting up the plow. The plow would occasionally change its position after plowing for some time due to the screws loosening. So from time to time, Collins would stop and re-adjust the screws that fasten the plow.

 

The other problem experienced by Collins was lack of balance in the tractor. According to Collins, the two-wheel tractor lacked sufficient balance during plowing sessions because it has only one small wheel at the rear. He is of the opinion that the tractor could perhaps maintain the required balance if the small wheels were two at the back. But when fixed with the trailer, the two-wheel tractor has a perfect balancing system.

Another thing is that the tractor had no planter. That doubled the work because one had to hire extra labour force or even ox-drawn animals for ripping or making the lines where one would plant the seeds.

The tractor was a perfect machine when connected to the trailer, and there were literally no problems experienced. Collins was pretty sure also that the tractor could work perfectly well if used for irrigation, or as a hammer mill, although he never tried these applications. He is contemplating doing so in the near future.

The tractor needed some minor modifications to improve planting specific seeds and to ensure the tractor balances very well when plowing. Overall, the tractor is a superb machine that has made Collins’ work much easier than before, and there is absolutely no doubt that it will continue to increase his yields tremendously as he gains the necessary experience. The tractor will also help him in many ways, as it is a multifunctional machine that would help reduce his poverty level in the shortest possible time. Unlike using animals, the tractor is immune from the famous corridor (hoof and mouth) disease which has since wiped out many cattle in Zambia.

The tractor broke down twice during the plowing session due to the roots in the soil, and stumps pricking the tires. As a result, two tubes were punctured, and the manifold Air-cleaner got damaged in the process as well. The other minor mechanical breakdown were due to inexperience by Collins with the tractor. He had problems when engaging the gears and as a result of this the tractor while in motion would stop abruptly. That means loss of man-hours due to time lost.

Otherwise, Collins is confident that with time he would soon get used to operating the tractor. And he is now even planning to do better in the next farming season .

In conclusion, the Collins Tractor business program has proved beyond any doubt that it is a big success taking into consideration that he will be able to realize the cost of one two-wheel tractor, all of his supplies, and all interest on the loan in just three growing seasons. After that, all income is his.

However, this income that Collins is expecting could have risen sharply if this particular venture were undertaken by a group of farmers. They could reduce the cost of labour tremendously since they would have done most of the chores themselves. There would be no need to pay for extra labour force, like in the case of Collins. Also, time management would not pose a challenge to a group of farmers because they would simply divide work time accordingly, and leave extra time to do other chores or even do individual work at their own farms, without necessarily paying for extra labour.

In spite of all the successes mentioned in this report, Collins had to grapple with some minor challenges that are worth mentioning here. First, when Collins bought the tractor, there were literally no persons who had experience working with the two-wheel tractor in the nearby village. Collins had to learn through trial and error how to operate it effectively. Although the manufacturer where Collins bought the machine gave him a manual, that in itself did not help much to solve this kind of shortcoming. But with time, this problem would soon be the thing of the past.

There were other complications that posed a great challenge to Collins. For instance, the topographical formation of the land had several consequences. He had observed that the two-wheel tractor would not plow very well where the land was not flat. On the contrary it would do better where the land was somehow flat with no trenches or holes in the ground. So,the land must be prepared with great care and this could only be done with extensive labour force. The person needs to have more money in order to hire extra labour force to work on the land. Also the tractor did not operate well on land infested with tree stumps in the ground, as doing so would damage the tractor and increase the tear and wear on the implement.

The final challenge was that the tractor lacked other important attachments for doing other farm chores. For instance, the ripper and planters for different varieties of seeds would save a lot of effort. And according to Collins, the two-wheel tractor lacked balance in that once one tire enters into a ditch, then one needs reinforcements by calling in many people to come and put it straight in the line during plowing session.

But over and above such challenges, the two wheel tractor has proved beyond any reasonable doubt that it can greatly improve rural people’s livelihoods if used accordingly with all other attachments, and that it is possible for a dedicated farmer to pay off the loan, with interest, of a single two-wheel tractor and all supplies in three farming seasons. After that, all income belongs to the individual farmer.

Be certain to see the spreadsheet with Income, Expenses, and Profit for three years. We are just beginning the second year of the project. Our projection is that after paying off the loan in year three, then the yearly income will rise to K 50.000.000 or $10,000. This compares to the average rural income of under $1000.

See Spreadsheet Here