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Agricultural Mechanization Research

Agricultural mechanization implies the use of various power sources and improved farmtools and equipment, with a view to reduce the drudgery of the human beings anddraught animals, enhance the cropping intensity, precision and timelines of efficiency ofutilization of various crop inputs and reduce the losses at different stages of crop production.

An Overview

Ethiopian economy is dominated by agriculture contributing 42.7% to the GDPand a significant contributor to reducing poverty. Despite the huge contribution ofthe sector to the country's economy, the system is predominantly of subsistence,characterized by the use of traditional farming implements and practices. The entire fieldoperations at small scale agriculture, where about 83% of the population is involved, arecarried out using hand-tools and thousands of years old tillage implements with humanand animal power which mainly include oxen plow farming system particularly in opencereal dominating production system. Similarly, farm operations in crop production,animal husbandry and forestry by large are performed with bare hands or using veryrudimentary farm tools. To meet the food demand of the ever-increasing populationand finance the other sectors of the economy, it is imperative to increase productionand productivity. This is attainable by the introduction of a wise mix of bio-chemical,socio-economic and physical science based technologies to the agricultural productionsystem. The latter is the role to be played by the Agricultural Mechanization. 

Agricultural mechanization technologies enable the bio-chemical inputs to performto their optimum potential. It was with this realization of undeniable fact that theAgricultural Mechanization Research Unit (the then Agricultural Implements Researchand Improvement Center /AIRIC/, which stationed in Melkassa Agricultural ResearchCenter /MARC/) was started in Ethiopian Agricultural Research Organization /EARO/in 1976. Again, to give more emphasis to the sector, it was re-organized as AgriculturalMechanization Research Directorate (having none labeled case team) within EthiopianInstitute of Agriculture Research/EIAR/ in 2000. Currently, it is conducting researchesthroughout the country in pre-harvest, harvest and post-harvest thematic areas incollaboration with regional research institutes working on mechanization. 

Ethiopian agricultural system is predominantly of subsistence, characterizedby the use of traditional farming implements and practices. The entire fieldoperations at small scale agriculture, where about 83% of the populationinvolved, are carried out using hand-tools and thousands-year old tillage implementswith human and animal power. Similarly farmstead operations in crop production,animal husbandry and forestry works by in large are performed with bare hands orvery rudimentary farm tools. In general, the level of engineering technology inputsin the country’s agriculture is still at infant stage. This is one of the main constraintshindering the modernization of Ethiopian agriculture and food production systems.

Thus developing appropriate mechanization technology will improve productionand productivity, reduce the huge production losses and it has a great contributionto food security. Moreover it is only when the environment is made conducivethrough proper use of animate and inanimate energy and improved implements;other bio-chemical inputs could perform to their optimum potential. They alsoimprove working conditions and the performance of jobs that would otherwise bedifficult to accomplish in the traditional way.

With the objective of developing and introducing agricultural mechanizationtechnologies that are more efficient and compatible with the socio-economiccondition of Ethiopian farmers, mechanization research program was came toexistence under the Ethiopian Institution of Agricultural Research (EIAR) since 1976.


  • To train manufacturers on the fabrication and maintenance of newly developed implements and alsoto train farmers on the operation of the newly developed implements. To improve the traditional farm implements,to introduce and/oradaptimporteddesigns,ortomakenewdesignsofimplementstogether with improved techniques of operations for pre-harvest, post-harvest, crop processing, animalproduction and product processing, and forest management and product utilization.
  • To study the available power sources (human, animal, engine, solar, and wind) and to generate technologiesfor their proper utilization.
  • To test and certify locally manufactured and imported implements and tractors, to develop test procedureand instrumentation techniques for testing agricultural equipment.
  • To identify mechanization related constraints, level of mechanization and economical combination ofimplements and power units, manufacturing capability of the local artisans and manufacturing plants,costs of fabrication and operation of implements .

Major activities and research domain

  • Full-fledged research on animal drawn implements.
  • Adaptive research on engine driven machinery.

Study and evaluation of the available power sources(human,animal, engine, solar and wind) and generation of technologies for their proper utilization.

  • Technology transfer.
  • Training on operation, fabrication and maintenance of improvedimplements and mechanization technologies to farmers, DAs,rural technology promotion centers, private manufacturer, higher institutions, students etc.

Research Achievements

Over40technologieswhichmainlyaddresssmallholder farmers were released and havereached end users. The followings are someof the released technologies: 

Erf- and Mofer-Attached Moldboard Plow

  • Itisananimal-drawnimprovedmoldboardplowattached to wooden parts of Ethiopian traditionalplow, Maresha such as beam (Mofer), handle (Erf),one wooden wing (Deger) and metal tying unit.
  • Thecuttingedgeorshearisreplaceablewhenitiswornout. It makes deeper and wider furrows and completeland preparation with lower draft requirement andtillage frequency than Maresha. 


  • Itisanimprovedanimal-drawntie-ridgingimplementattachedto Maresha using a pair of metal rods and a tying unit. It isoperated by one hand only.
  • Itismeanttocreateaseriesofbasinsinthefieldsothatwatercan be retained and used by the crop whenever there is dryspell.
  • Italsoreducesrunoff,andisapotentialimplementfordryareas, making deeper and wider furrows on fields with six-foldlower labor requirement than manual tie-ridging.


Winged Plow (Sweep)

•ItisasecondarytillageimplementattachedtotheMareshausing a tying unit and a pair of fixing metal rods at both sidesof the implement.

•Itservesasaweederwithdifferentworkingwidthsdependingon the type of crop and its row spacing.

•Leveledandfirmfieldcanbeachievedfromitsoperation.Itcould also apply fertilizer well to the soil during tef planting.

Sub Soiler

•ItisamodifiedMareshawherewoodenwings(Deger)are replaced by a pair of rods and rings.

•Itisusefultobreakhardpansthatarecreatedafterrepeated plowing at the same depth and, hence, waterinfiltration and root growth can be improved.


Hand Metered Row Planter

•Ananimal-drawnrowplanterattachedtoMareshawithsemi-automaticmetering mechanism. The seed plate is fitted to the metering unit and anoscillating motion can be applied from the farmer's hand correspondingto his footstep to attain seed and fertilizer placement at the desired rate.

•Itworkseffectivelyinplantingmaize,sorghumandharicotbeanonroughand cloddy fields of small-scale farmers. Two row planters having twofurrow opener were developed with the same principle for planting wheat. 

Tef Drilling Machine

•Thistefseeddrillismeantfordrillingtefseedandfertilizerinrow. It can be pulled by a pair of oxen/donkeys or a single oxor donkey since the draft requirement is low. The planter couldalso be pushed by human power. The drill is also available withsmaller size and without fertilizer option.

•Thedrillerhasdiscswithtangentiallydrilledseedpickingholes(cups) provided on its periphery to pick seeds from the hopperand drop them in the seed funnel. The size and number of cellson the disc can vary according to desired seed rate.

Wheat Planter

•Itisasix-rowplanterwithaflutedtypeseedmeteringdevice.Thehopperconstructedfrom1mmsheetmetal,with six openings at the base to make it a six-row planter. Six-furrow openers with an integrated covering deviceon each. The handle is made from a half inch water pipe with a provision for controlling the animal’s movement.


Cassava Chipping Device

•Ithasfouropeningsforinsertingcassavawithincreasedbladecontactsoasto increase chipping capacity. It is operated by hand and the chipped pieceswill be collected below the blade on the drawer, making it easier to collect.

•Chippingfacilitatesdrying,therebyincreasingdryingefficiency.Ithastwosupporting bearings and there is a bevel gear and sprocket assembly totransmit and convert horizontal rotary motion into vertical motion.

Metal Silo

•Anadoptedtechnologywiththesimpletechniqueofconstruction.Themetal silo is a proven technology for maize storage. It is constructed farma galvanized sheet metal of 26 gauge. It requires seem joining and weldingwith lead. It was tested on maize in different regions of the country andperformed well. It can store maize for over 12 months without any kind ofdeterioration.

• It is available in 300 kg, 500 kg and 1,000 kg. The 1,000 kg capacity metalsilo can feed one family with 10 members up to one year. It is asserted thatpost-harvest losses in developing countries like Ethiopia estimated up to50%. Therefore, metal silo will have a key role in food security at householdlevel for our rural community.

Groundnut Lifter / Potato Digger

Ananimal-drawnharvestingequipmentforgroundnutand potato. It is attached to Maresha parts, beam(Mofer) and handle (Erf). Its soil engaging part has a“V” shaped blade with extended wings of metal rodswhich help separate the products from the soil.

Hand-operated Milk Churner

Itissimplerotatingdevicewithaprincipleofcentrifugalforce. A continuous rotation of the off-set containercreates the churning motion. Within six to ten minutes,one can get butter. Its simple construction labor-savingbenefits, especially for the rural women, are the distinctcharacters of the device. 

Modified Votex Multi-crop Thresher

•Itisusedtothreshmultiplecrops.Thecapacityofthethresherdepends on the grain straw ratio and operator’s feed rate. Theaverage output ranges between 200 and 600 kg/hr for wheat.

•Thelossoftheun-threshedgrainvariesbetween0.5and2.0%, whereas damage can only occur when the crop is verydry and it could be between 2 to 3%.

•Tofacilitatetransportationofthemachine,thedrivingunitand the machine itself can be separated from each other veryeasily. The thresher is built with an auxiliary grain cleanerwhich cleans grain using air.

Pedal-Driven Enset Corm Pulverizer

Itsmostpartsarewoodenmaterials.Thegratingunit is an animal horn and fitted to the wheelsprocket drive. It has good griping mechanism anduniform feeding rate that makes the whole operationcomfortable.

Manually Operated Maize Sheller

Itisdesignedanddevelopedforsmall-scalemaizegrowing farmers. It consists of feeding fray, drum andconcave assembly and flywheel. The clearance betweendrum and concave can be adjusted to the desired levelas to fit the different cob sizes. A new pedal driveversion of the sheller was developed for higher shellingcapacity increased by 7.2%.

Groundnut Sheller

Animprovedrotaryhandtypeofgroundnut sheller of. Its concave anddrum assembly was modified forincreased capacity and reduced breakageof groundnut kernels of all varieties.

MARC Enset Decorticator

ItisdesignedanddevelopedconsideringworkcomfortandaffordabilityofsmallholderEnsetgrowers.Itsmajorpartsarethedecorticatingboardandaneffectiveclamping mechanism constituting aclamp, a cylindrical rod pulley, a ropeand a foot pedal assembly. It developsa holding force on the pseudo-stemagainst the board. Field assessmentshaverevealedthatitcanprovidemore economic advantages than thetraditional model. 

Modified IITA Multi-crop Thresher

ThethreshingunitsoftheoriginalIITAthresher are peg-type that is effectivein threshing smaller cereals like tef andwheat but higher grain breakage whenshelling maize. The drum was modifiedin such a way that it can accommodatereplaceable bar and peg types. Itwas also modified and developedconsidering suitable operation and easytransportation.

AIRIC-Bako Modified Maize Sheller

Itisdesignedanddevelopedfor small- and medium-scalemaize growing farmers. It is amodification of Bako thresher toincrease the threshing capacity.

Versatile Multi-crop Planter (VMP)

This planter is imported and adapted to local conditions. It is designed to seed both seed and fertilizer in row for:

•single pass shal low tillageandseedingsystem(knownasPTOS);



•bedplantingandseedingsystem(forsinglepassnewbedmakingorre-shapingofpermanentbeds,plantingandfertilizer application can be done simultaneously); and

•Conventionaltillagesystem.Depending on the adjustment the planter can be used to plant wheat, rice, maize, mung bean, sesame, chickpea,lentil, jute, black gram, mustard, cotton, peanut, etc., and for potato bed making.


CIMMYT International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center