|Workhorses: Bui Sy Toi with his invention that can plough terraced fields, replacing cattle. — VNS Photo Nguyen Hoai
by Nguyen Hoai
A farmer in the northern mountainous province of Yen Bai has invented a mini-ploughing machine for terraced fields in inaccessible areas.
Located in the mountains, farmers in the province's Nam Bung Commune, Van Chan District, were forced to plough their fields with buffalos and cows, instead of machines, placing a burden on their daily work.
Though local farmers wanted a mechanical plough to help them work, the equipment available on the market is too large and heavy to be operated on narrow terraces, so they still had to work manually.
Noticing such a hardship and being eager to help local people reduce their labour, 40-year-old farmer Bui Sy Toi successfully created a mini-plough that is ideal for mountainous terrains.
Born into a poor family, Toi left school and helped his parents in farm work after he finished his 9th grade education. At leisure after harvest time, Toi learned to repair motorcycles and worked as a mechanic to earn extra money.
"I was born into a farming family, so I understand how strenuous the work is. Since I have some motorcycle repairing skills, I started with the idea of making a small plough that is easy to operate on hilly areas," he said.
In the beginning of 2012, a local farmer seriously injured himself while trying to use a large plough on the terraced fields, which made Toi more determined to create a plough exclusively for terraced fields.
Making use of old motorcycle engines and scrap metal, the farmer began improving the engine and assembling a plough.
After each prototype was made, he took it to the fields for testing. "Due to a lack of mechanical know-how, I met many difficulties in creating the plough. The first prototype was unworkable. Several locals called me a madman, as I was absorbed in scrap metals all day," Toi said.
After testing a number of versions, Toi's efforts finally paid off when the first workable plough was born in mid-2012.
To persuade locals of the machine's ability to perform farm work, as well as its efficency, Toi used his plough to help them plough their fields during two rice crops.
Weighing less than 90 kilograms, Toi's machine is suitable for both ploughing and raking and is easily transportable, according to Deputy Chairman of the provincial Science and Technology Association, Pham Van Ro.
"The machine saves fuel, while its capacity is equal to other existing machines. It consumes one litre of petrol for every 1,000sq.m of land. In a single morning, it can plough nearly 4,000sq.m of sloping terrain, equivalent to eight times the capability of cattle," Ro said.
He added that the plough is unlike existing machines on the market, as parts for Toi's home-made plough could easily be replaced when they are broken.
Furthermore, in comparison to Chinese and Japanese ploughs, which cost over US$1,500, Toi's plough is much more affordable for Vietnamese farmers, selling at VND8-13 million ($380 - 620) each, depending on the state of the engine, according to Ro.
Thanks to the advantages, Toi's machine soon became popular among local farmers.
Ban A Chiep, a farmer in Nam Bung Commune with 720sq.m of farmland, said, "In the past, I had to rent buffalo for ploughing and raking, which was labour intensive and ineffective. For the last three crops, I have used the machine made by Toi, and it has proven effective."
His ploughs have also caught the attention of farmers and businesses from other northern provinces, including Lai Chau and Son La, as well as those in southern localities, such as Binh Phuoc and Binh Duong.
Toi has opened a workshop and hired seven workers to assemble ploughs. Toi said he and his staff can complete one plough per day during peak periods.
"Besides farming, it's hard to find another job in the area. Toi's workshop has provided us with jobs and an additional income of VND3 - 5 million ($140-240) each month," Dam Van Hanh, one of the workers at Toi's workshop, said.
Toi's mini-plough has been patented by the National Office of Intellectual Property of Viet Nam under the Ministry of Science and Technology.
"I'm attending the upcoming provincial Science and Technology Creative Contest with the machine. I will take greater efforts to improve the plough," Toi said. — VNS