Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is an important source of dietary carbohydrates for over 800 million people in the world. In 2012, over 282 million tonnes of cassava was produced globally, with more than 50% contributed by Africa. The most common method of harvesting cassava is uprooting by hand after the upper parts of the stem are removed. The use of levers and ropes are sometimes employed during harvesting. The roots of the cassava plant can be damaged if care is not taken during the harvesting process.
A major constraint to the commercialization of cassava production in Sub-Saharan Africa is the harvesting process. Manually harvesting cassava can be time consuming and labor intensive, especially during the dry season. The commercial use of mechanical harvesters have not been explored by cassava growers in Africa. This has made cassava farming unattractive to the youth, resulting in poor yields with little export prospect. The news of an efficient mechanical harvester – the agricultural tool for the century – developed by Prof. Emmanuel Y. H. Bobobee and his research team in the Agricultural Engineering Department, KNUST comes as an answered ‘Prayer’.
The mechanical Harvester, named as the TEK MECH Cassava Harvester, would make cassava an industrial crop aside its nutritive value in Sub-Saharan Africa. This device can be used to harvest a cassava plant within a second compared to the 5-10 minutes by manual labor. The TEK MECH Cassava Harvester is lightweight and can be dragged by existing tractors owned by small-scale farmers in the world. The development of this device would enhance the modernization and commercialization of cassava production in Ghana and other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. The usage of the device has been demonstrated in KNUST to delegates from the Ministries of Agriculture in Ghana, Sierra Leone, La Cote d’Ivoire and Togo. The device has also been tested and demonstrated in South Africa for large-scale cassava and potato production.
At a field demonstration exercise held at the Wenchi Agricultural Station, the maker, Prof. Emmanuel Y.H. Bobobee, said TEK MECH Cassava Harvester was developed as far back as 1994 but received funding from the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Project (WAAPP) in 2011 for its improvement and popularity. He said the device has since been operated in Ghana and South Africa for large-scale cassava harvesting. He added that appropriate authorities and stakeholders should embrace TEK-MECH because it will be a game-changer for cassava production in Africa. “The low level of engineering technology inputs into agriculture is one main constraint hindering the modernization of agriculture and food production in Africa and some other parts of the world”. Awareness of TEK MECH Cassava Harvester can be created in the form of field demonstrations and advertisement as well as introducing and popularizing the harvester to cassava farmers, entrepreneurs, policy makers and other stakeholders in the cassava value chain in the world.
Funds are required to pursue more market research, improve durable blades and tractor operators in the proper production, operation, repairs and maintenance of the implement during this initial introductory stage of the TEK MECH Cassava Harvester – the agricultural new age tool.
- http://agriceng.knust.edu.gh/researchcollaboration/tek-mech-cassava-harvester..accessed 22/02/2016 at 3:30pm
- Bobobee, E. Y., Okyere J. B., Agyare W. A., Amponsah S. K., King, S. R., Aveyire, J. and Sarkodie_Addo, J. (2014). Performance evaluation of prototype mechanical cassava harvester in three agro –ecological zones in Ghana, Ghana Journal of Agricultural Science, 48 (1)
- http://waapp.org.gh/released-technologies/cassava/40-technologies-cassava/235-mechanical-cassava-harvester accessed 22/02/2016 at 4:00pm
- Bobobee, E.Y. H., (2013) Agricultural Engineering Department,Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST)Kumasi. Ghana.
- http://thebftonline.com/business/agribusiness/17264/knust-develops-cassava-harvester-.html accessed 22/02/2016 at 4:00pm
- http://www.ghanatrade.gov.gh/Trade-News/knust-develops-cassava-harvester.html accessed 22/02/2016 at 4:00pm
By: Enoch Ayertey, BSc (Hons), Science Writer