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Ready for service! Africa RISING and GRATIS Foundation train farmers in northern Ghana on basic maintenance, service and efficient operation of diesel-powered maize shellers

In most parts of Ghana, postharvest operations in maize harvesting, threshing, shelling and cleaning are still done manually and often by women. This work is associated with drudgery and high postharvest losses, which can be immensely reduced by mechanizing such operations.

Farmers in northern Ghana are gradually shifting from manual maize shelling (left) to use of diesel-powered maize shellers (right).

A series of farmer training events organized by the Africa RISING project and the GRATIS Foundation were once again at the forefront of advancing the mechanization of postharvest activities in northern Ghana. The training was held in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions of Ghana 11–18 January 2021.

A trainer shows farmers the tools required to service the maize sheller (left) and how to do the service (right).

Over the past four years, the Africa RISING project has worked with smallholder farmers in the three regions of northern Ghana to support technology transfer of mechanized maize shelling. Data from the project's technology validation exercises shows a high preference for diesel-powered maize shellers by farmers. Surveys have also shown that the use of diesel-powered mechanized maize shellers has helped farmers in the region save time value equivalent of 40 Ghanaian Cedi (GHS) (USD 7.70) per tonne in postharvest maize operations. Male farmers reported that it took them 10 hours to shell one maize bag (100 Kg), whereas the female farmers said it would take them about one week, if they were doing it manually as a sole activity.

The project team is working to support farmer groups to maintain their maize shellers properly. This is the next logical step towards a mechanized agricultural revolution in northern Ghana. We have partnered with Africa RISING to do this. Many maize farmers live far from the machine operators or artisans in most communities, which sometimes causes delays in fixing even minor machine breakdowns. This training will set up a cohort of empowered farmers who can maintain their maize shellers well and get the most out of them.

Francis Azuyemi, Regional Manager GRATIS Foundation.

After experimenting with the maize shellers and seeing their benefits in reducing workload, many farmers quickly organized themselves into groups, which the project has supported to acquire diesel-powered maize shellers. Since then, the project has also helped 21 farmer groups to put in place and apply collective agreements for sharing maize shelling machines.

A female trainee starting up a maize sheller engine. Photo credit: Wilhelmina Ofori-Duah/IITA.

The training was evaluated in three parts: pre-training evaluation, on-training evaluation and post-training evaluation. Majority of the 74 farmers who were trained said they were satisfied with the event. The pre-training evaluation revealed that trainee farmers had less than 50% awareness of proper maintenance of the diesel-powered maize shellers, but in the end, said their awareness levels had risen to 80%. Important topics covered during the training included:

  • Assembling and disassembling maize shellers
  • Fault detection on the machine
  • Prescribed operation practices for the machines
  • Servicing and maintenance operations (e.g. carrying out oil changes, checking the oil level, plastic fan and bearings service, etc.)

TRAINEE FEEDBACK

I never thought I could repair a fault in a maize sheller. I also thought that when there is a fault, the whole machine should be sent for repairs. Starting the machine seemed tedious but I have learned how to start the machine, how to detect faults – black smoke indicates dirty oil or overheating of the machine.

I knew there should be water and oil in the machine, but I did not know the level at which each of them should be. Also, I only knew the machine should be allowed to cool after some time, but I didn't know the duration. This training enlightened me on the required water and oil level and how long the machine should be allowed to cool. Now I can successfully thresh my bags of maize.

Zaharatu Sulemana, trainee at Duko Community, Northern Region, Ghana.

I never knew the machine could be dismantled. I never even knew the water in the machine could become hot. During the training, I witnessed for the first time how the machine was dismantled. I have learned that when the water is heated, one can pour it out and refill it. I can now confidently dismantle and reassemble the machine. I have learned that the machine should be allowed to rest for some hours after operation.

Initially, when I threshed my maize, some of the maize remained on the cobs. I now know how to set the machine to thresh well. I have also learned that its teeth wear out, and that local fabricators can sharpen them; alternatively, other teeth can be added to the machine.

God bless Africa RISING to continue to giving us more of these very beneficial trainings and skills.

Grace Issahaku, trainee at Duko Community, Northern Region, Ghana.

The training was quite good. I learned lots of new things about the proper servicing and operation of the diesel-operated maize sheller. For example, I only knew how to fuel the sheller, but now I know how to fix a loose drum in a faulty machine. I used to think any minor problem with the machine was a fault in the engine! I don't need to call on commercial technicians for every little thing, and I think my skills will help our farmer group earn more from the machine because it will reduce time wasted waiting to fix minor problems.

Benjamin Ambana, trainee, Upper West Region, Ghana.

I apppreciate being part of this training. I can now confidently carry out basic repair operations on the machines without a problem. In my opinion, this will help our farmer group to reduce the amount we spend on commercial machine technicians every time we have an issue with the maize shelling machines. I believe this training will also help us to keep our machines in great condition and hence prolong the length of time they can serve us.

Soyiri Ambamaana–Pase, trainee, Upper West Region, Ghana.

Photos: Wilhelmina Ofori-Duah/IITA and AgriGhana Online