Animal Traction

The importance of animal traction in the world
The first use of animal power took place some four thousand years B.C. In the six ensuing millennia 21 species of domestic animals have been used for pulling agricultural implements, goods and passenger vehicles, blocks of wood and for carrying loads, for riding and for use with a saddle. Some of these animals are used to supply necessary energy in extraordinary situations, such as for the haulage of blocks in the forest or the use of the yak and the llama to transport loads at altitudes higher than 4,000 metres above sea level.

It is estimated that more than 400 million work animals are in use, mainly in developing countries. Of these 300 million are cattle, 80 million belong to the horse family and the remainder are drawn from all the other types of animals used for traction. 50% of cultivated land is worked using these animals and they are used for pulling 25 million vehicles (Rawaswamy, 1985). Of the total energy required for agricultural production, 65.5% is produced by man, 27.3% by animals and only 7.16% by tractors (Holmes, 1980).

Draught animals and the repair of tertiary rural roads
To the uses mentioned above, can be added the repair of rural roads using equipment designed to be drawn by oxen and horses. This technology began to be developed in 1997 in Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador and a set of tools was developed which enables work on the repair and maintenance of local roads to be carried out that complies with the technical guidelines laid down for this type of road. In 2000 an exchange of experience took place with the North American organisation, Tillers International, which promotes animal traction and also uses similar technology, used by the Amish communities living in Wisconsin.

The road repair tool kit consists of a ripping plough, a terracer with adjustable angles, a grader (supplied by Tillers), dump carts, a rake, an irrigation tank and a compacting roller. The technology was evaluated by USAID and the results indicated the feasibility of using this technology. Compared with projects based solely on the intensive use of manpower, it showed the following results - more rapid progress in work and better quality; ease in the use of equipment by workers, humanisation of work; low costs per kilometre repaired, low costs for the maintenance of equipment and suitability for use on a wide variety of soils, with the exception of very hard and rocky terrain. More recently, World Bank, KFW and Japanese government agents have reached the same conclusion.

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This contribution was written by Rafael Guerrero
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