The cutting edge

for years engineers and agriculturists have been trying to modify traditional tools for farmers to increase agricultural production. Now, an improved tool, the Herrandina plough, has been developed at Cusco in the Andes in southern Peru which is far superior than the traditional wooden plough ( Leisa , Vol 13, No 2).

At first sight, the two ploughs look alike. But the Herrandina plough is made of steel, not low-carbon mild steel, but iron bars that are used to reinforce concrete for housing. These bars are easily available and are also cheap. Because of a slightly higher carbon content, this kind of steel has a higher tensile strength and is more resistant to wear and tear than the traditional plough. While a traditional wooden plough can only be used for ploughing, the Herrandina plough can be used for crop maintenance and for harvesting potatoes. The working principle for the Herrandina plough is the same as in the traditional implements and using it requires no extra skills.

While the life span of the traditional plough is only about 2-3 years, the Herrandina plough can be used for more than 10 years. The Herrandina plough is more effective as it can plough deep. It is also efficient: one hectare can be ploughed in only 18 hours, whereas the traditional plough takes more than 28 hours for the same area. However, the Herrandina plough does not come cheap. It costs us $60-70 while the traditional plough costs only us $15-20.

The Herrandina plough project originated in Cusco and has now spread to other parts of Peru. The tool is widely used in Cajamarca in the north as well as in Lima. Farmers involved in this project have had a close collaboration with the engineers who helped improve the design of the plough. The Herrandina project shows that designs developed locally with strong involvement of far-mers, can be mass-produced and benefit farmers beyond the region where they were originally designed. And to achieve this a close contact between the users and the manufactures is essential.