Drs. Mathilde Miedema
- Developing countries
- Development Cooperation
- Inclusive Business
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The aim of the project starting in 2008 was to improve the quality of life by improving productivity and health of the farmers and increase incomes of blacksmiths and carpenters. In collaboration with all stakeholders we made in 2009 a joint redesign of the hoe and tested it in 2 farmer communities. Main change was the replacement of the short handle with a long handle. This way farmers can work upright instead of bending down the whole day. At first they were reluctant, because traditionally these farmers are very conventional. Before starting the innovation on the hand tools, we had to ask permission from their ancestors by means of a special session with the Chiefs and elders of the communities. After getting permission the farmers were positive for change and we developed a business model for local production, distribution and sales. The local carpenters and black smiths were trained to manufacture the long hoe. In 2010 we scaled up to a test with 300 farmers in order to sensitize the market and to create a demand. We tackled a cultural issue that they regarded upright working as lazy. Main partners were the University of Development Studies Tamale, Kalabash Ghana Foundation, Send, farmer training centers, Chiefs and farmers of 6 communities around Bolgatanga and Tamale. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs partly funded the activities through Schokland funds.
This August Mathilde Miedema from TNO met the Ghanaian project manager Justin Adonadaga of Kalabash Ghana Foundation. At a sunny terrace in Delft he reported that the innovation is still going on. Justin said “I estimate that there are currently 1500 farmers from different communities of the Upper East Region who use the long hoe for farming. Also an additional innovation has been made; a specially designed hoe for women is designed to meet their physical situation. This hoe has a thinner long handle, a thicker grip at the top and the connection between wooden handle and steel blade was improved. The organization Rural Enterprise Development and many private blacksmiths manufacture the hoe because of the growing demand. The handles are produced by several carpentry companies in Bolgatanga and Navrongo area. Blacksmiths produce the hoe and they buy the handles from the wood market and then sell the complete hoe (hoe and handle) in the markets. A hoe sells for 12Ghc to 15Ghc (€ 2.75- € 3,50) depending on location and other factors. Rural Development Enterprise also trains their pupils in farming with a long hoe”.
I was glad to hear that more and more farmers are using the long hoe. I was positively embarrassed about the fact that local partners kept on innovating the tool and even after the project had ended, they came up with new product design. I asked Justin about the main achievement within this innovative trajectory. “Farmers demand for the hoe is growing and a new female design of the hoe is made locally, so I can conclude the project of 5 years ago was successful. Sometimes we need patience to come to conclusions on projects; especially when the transition includes cultural behavior change. People are beginning to appreciate the benefits of innovation, it is being accepted, the farmers use the improved hoe and they are healthier and productive. There is great positive impact of the project”.