New Tools for African Farmers: Human Centered Design Approach
From Jennifer Maria Olson on March 12th, 2020
Despite years of research to reduce poverty among small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, farm productivity is generally low and labor requirements are high. Youth and men are departing, leaving behind mostly women and elders. The ubiquitous hand hoe is inefficient and back-breaking. Little attention has been devoted to improving farmers’ hand tools to reduce their steep labor burden. Lacking are well-designed, locally available and affordable technologies.
A team of researchers, engineers and development practitioners from Kenya and the US is addressing this using human-centered design (HCD) in 13 communities in Western Kenya. HCD prioritizes users’ voices using productive techniques. The team had gender-segregated farmer groups sketch designs of new or modified existing tools, and local (jua kali) metal workers manufacture prototypes. Farmers are testing several prototypes of four tools.