Makerere produces home-made tractor

Gen Salim Saleh (seated left on the tractor), the chairman Operation Wealth Creation, and Chinese Ambassador to Uganda Zhao Yali (seated, right) and other officials aboard the MV Mulimi, during its launch on Thursday. PHOTO BY stephen Otage

Kampala- Makerere University on Thursday unveiled a multi-purpose tractor dubbed the MV Mulimi at the Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyoro.

With a body made out of a combination of wood and steel, the three-wheel vehicle does not only plough fields, it also transports produce, threshes maize, pumps water for irrigation and can charge phones.

Demonstrating the tractor’s capabilities at the launch, Prof Noble Banadda, who led the vehicle development project, noted that the machine has its five compartments clearly defined for the five functionalities.

“It has a pump, which can pump water from depths of up to seven metres to a radius of 33 metres. This will put an end to the water shortage woes faced by farmers as the water pumped by the tractor can be used for irrigation and can also be stored to be used in the drier seasons,” he explained.

Dr Nicholas Kigundu, one of the project lead researchers, noted that the MV Mulimi thresher can thresh half a ton of maize in an eight-hour shift, and the tractor’s wheelbase allows it to carry up to two tons of produce.

“We have also provided a power outlet port that is used for phone charging by just plugging in the charger. More importantly, however, the tractor comes with a three-disc plough. This will save farmers from the laborious task of using a hand hoe as the tractor’s plough is faster and easier to use,” he said.

Speaking at the launch, Makerere University vice chancellor Prof John Ddumba Ssentamu said the tractor is intended for the vast majority of Uganda’s farmers who cultivate on 10 acres or less.

“These may not be in position to buy large scale agricultural equipment given their incomes and farm sizes, yet they still need labour to run their operation.”

Gen Salim Saleh, the chairperson Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) and the chief guest said the tractor is a timely invention, coming at a time when sub-Saharan Africa is lagging behind in regard to agriculture due to primitive production ways. He noted that the hand hoe is being abandoned in most parts of the world and it is important for Africa to follow this same trend.

Will the project bear fruits?

Earlier inventions. In 2011, Makerere University’s College of Engineering Design, Art and Technology built a two-seater vehicle (Kiira EV) that runs on rechargeable lithium batteries instead of petrol.

Despite the excitement that surrounded the Kiira EV amidst plans of producing more units, nothing else has been seen apart from the prototype.

Prof Noble Banadda, who led the vehicle development project, is, however, confident that the MV Mulimi will not remain just a prototype.

“Right now as I speak, the second tractor is already complete. With government funding and support from the private sector, the tractors will very soon be out on market.”

Prices. But with the price of each tractor tentatively being Shs19m, many small farmers will still be unlikely to afford it. A Chinese made walking tractor currently costs between Shs5 million and Shs8 million.