Energy Farming Tiller Service Program Comes to Wasi Village
The Himalayan Institute Cameroon is bringing modern agriculture to rural villages with its power tiller service program.
Miles from the nearest paved road, amid the grass fields of the Mbar Mountain basin, lies unassuming Wasi village. Throughout most of the year, the market square remains quiet. Subsistence farming predominates and families struggle to send their children to distant boarding houses where they can attend school. But for two months a year unemployment gives way to a frenzy of hard labor. In late June the plains flood and turn fallow fields into wetlands ideal for rice cultivation. Villagers work night and day with small hand hoes, raking at the wet soil to form rice paddies. The demand for rice is high in Cameroon, and most of the income for the whole year must be earned from the brief rice season.
There’s always more work than can be done by hand. Giving a tour of his homeland, a Ministry official sighs wistfully as he spreads his arms to indicate the scope of the flooding. “This is God’s gift, but we are helpless to use it,” he says.
Then the Himalayan Institute stepped in. In 2009, as part of its mission to bring modern, ecologically responsible farming to the developing world, the Himalayan Institute imported several state-of-the-art agricultural machines. Included in the shipment was the power tiller now being put to good use in Wasi.
The tiller is self-propelled, with a 14 horsepower diesel engine, and can be fitted with various components to suit the environment. In the wetlands of Wasi, a pair of iron tires enables the tiller to accomplish in under two hours what would take over thirty by hand, preparing a standard plot for rice transplantation.
While most of the farmers in Wasi are familiar with this kind of technology, few have been able to take advantage of it. The demand for mechanized farm equipment is so high that unscrupulous renters are able to pit farmer groups against one another in blind auctions, driving up prices until it becomes impossible to earn a living with the machinery. The Himalayan Institute leases equipment for the cost of fuel and maintenance, fostering a sustainable industry for communities like Wasi.
At a meeting with the Monoun Rice Farmers’ Union, the solemn atmosphere broke into wild cheers when a representative of the Himalayan Institute Cameroon announced that there were two more power tillers available for service rental. To the families of Wasi village, the opportunity can’t come soon enough.