Proceedings of the workshop of the Animal Traction Network for Eastern and Southern Africa (ATNESA) held 20-24 September 1999, Mpumalanga, South Africa
Even at the very end of the twentieth century, most transport in rural Africa is accomplished by women and children carrying water, firewood and agricultural produce on their heads and backs. With a few exceptions, very little advantage is taken of animal transport and intermediate modes of transport (IMT). In contrast, in Asia, all manner of IMT are used. Research into the cost effectiveness of animal based transport in rural Africa confirms that investment in animal carts provides one of the highest rates of return available to rural households and yet uptake remains low. One of the reasons for this low adoption of animal carts is undoubtedly their high price compared to rural incomes.
To address this the DTU has been working with KENDAT (Kenya Network for Draught Animal Technology) and FARM Africa to lower the costs and difficulties of animal cart production in Kenya and Uganda. Working with local artisans, new cart and cart component designs have been developed and placed with cart users for testing. In most places the new carts were substantially cheaper and lighter than existing cart designs and they were not dependable on the availability of scrap automotive components, as was traditional. Additionally the carts were built using the tools and materials normally available to local artisans and without the use of special tooling or indeed any machining – including drilling.
Several families of cart bodies were developed: wooden framed carts with sides steel framed flat bed load trays with and without sides, and steel framed water carrying carts. As part of the cost reduction they also used a novel method of fixing planks to frames and a low-cost, quickly- installed brake system. Fixed axles were tested extensively and a family of novel twin offset axles using plastic water pipe, wood, scrap ball and ball lace bearings developed. The ball race twin axle design was particularly useful allowing low- friction and low-wear axles to be constructed and repaired easily.
Along with axles a novel wheel building method was tried which allowed construction with small steel sections without hammering. Donkey harnesses were also made, particularly to work with carts with single draw-poles. The DTU saddle system, though expensive worked for the special case applied by users in several localities.
The DTU carts placed with users continue to be monitored for longer-term performance records. Some of the ingenious, axle, bearing and body design attributes of the DTU carts have also been adopted by participating artisans, who have continued local manufacture of the carts well after the highly participatory DTU cart project ended. In many cases the designs have been modified to fit the needs of various users, such as metallic wheels, higher clearance for hilly and rocky areas, and collar harnessing.