Backsaver: Innovative Small-Scale Hand Planter popular throughout Africa
South Africa’s Michris Janse van Rensburg has enjoyed considerable success with his Backsaver hand planter. He has also now launched a revolutionary new fertiliser applicator (see box below) and the Backsaver Combi – a manually-propelled combination seed and fertiliser planter. The products have proved to be a solution to many of the problems associated with improving the success rate of small-scale operators.
New Backsaver Fertiliser Applicator
The new product enables you to apply fertiliser accurately as you walk. Calibration is done by gears, and as such, the speed at which you walk is irrelevant to the product’s operation. The fertiliser bag can hold 7kg of fertiliser and applies 15g per metre, making refilling only necessary after 400m. The applicator is sturdy and reliable and is built by Africans for Africans.
Outside South Africa, the Backsaver planters are now being used throughout the continent in countries such as Ghana, Zambia and Mozambique. In addition to basic planting for small-scale operators, they’re also used by commercial farmers to fill in plant rows where poor germination or cutworm infestation has affected the original mechanically planted stand.
“Precise planting is the only way to ensure a good crop. For too long farmers in Africa have just put the seed in the ground and hoped for a crop,” says Michris, adding that the Backsaver planter gives the small-scale operator the same potential as the farmer with a much more expensive planter.
The highly accurate seed spacing can be adjusted from 3cm to 45cm by changing the gears and also the spacing of the holes in the seed plate. The application rate of fertiliser can be precisely adjusted simply by changing the gears, and the fertiliser is dispensed by means of the worm drive. The Perspex seed plates are made to precisely suit the size and type of seed being planted. There’s no limit to the shape of the holes or the spacing so that exact seeding specifications can be met.
Success in Ghana
An operation in Ghana, backed by USAID, recently took delivery of an order of Backsaver implements comprising 2,000 hand planters and 200 Combi push planters and fertiliser applicators. This is part of an initiative whereby 11,000 farmers are being supplied with equipment, seed and fertiliser as a production loan, to be repaid from the sale of the crop.
In the past, the correct application of the five bags of fertiliser with which each farmer is supplied has been a problem. Sometimes the fertiliser runs out before half the area is planted and at other times half the fertiliser has not been applied when planting is complete. The Backsaver fertiliser unit ensures precise application rates and the seeds are planted accurately too.
The Combi unit can be heavy going as a push unit if animal traction is not available but it has been found that by using it as just a fertiliser applicator and then in a second operation as a planter, it can be pushed effectively. This method has proved to be very effective where the ground has not been very well prepared as the first operation, applying the fertiliser, prepares a firm seedbed for the planting, resulting in excellent germination.
Spectacular results from Mozambique
Michris picked up an appeal on Facebook from missionary Jaco Rudolph in Mozambique. He was planting maize and needed to improve production in order to raise funds for his church. Michris donated a Backsaver hand planter and a fertiliser applicator. The results, as can be seen from the photo above, were quite spectacular with a yield of about 9 tonnes/ha, compared with an average local yield of not much more than one tonne/ha.
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