‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ and the challenges of mechanisation
The Planting for Food and Jobs Programme (PFJ) is one of the flagship initiatives of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration and farm mechanisation has a crucial role to play in the success of this initiative.
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) has recently announced that it intends to invest about $500 million in the sector to revamp the country’s farm mechanisation centres.
Over the years, governments had imported various brands of tractors and other farm machinery into the country with the aim of boosting agricultural productivity.
It has been reported quite recently that since 2017, the government has invested over $269 million worth of farm equipment in the agricultural sector with nearly 5,000 pieces of farm equipment having been distributed to farmers.
Over time some of these equipment are able to survive but majority of them break down and fade out due to poor maintenance and servicing. For instance during 2000-2010, over 3,000 tractors of varying makes and brands were imported into Ghana but within a short time most of them failed and became unusable.
One unsung factor that has a positive impact on the longevity of farm machinery is lubrication, which is usually ignored in farm equipment servicing.
The PFJ can benefit immensely from effective mechanisation if owners and managers of farm machinery will consider the lubrication of their equipment as a critical activity in the maintenance and care of their machinery.
Mechanisation reduce drudgery of farm work, increase productivity and improve the quality of farm work generally.
Modern tractors and other farm machinery which drive the mechanisation processes are expected to be efficient, reliable, comfortable and safe notwithstanding the large loads and high operating temperature conditions they face. To achieve these ends, one needs to look at lubrication in respect of the operation of farm machinery.
Lubrication is a prime requirement for all machines, equipment or plants including farm equipment as it adds to the life and efficiency of the machine or equipment by reducing wear and tear of its components.
This in turn will lead to fewer breakdowns, greater machine availability and utility, lower maintenance costs and longer machine life.
Tractor and other farm machines, by their unique design and functions, have many moving parts than conventional automobiles and so their lubrication requirements are extensive and different. Because of that oils designed for automobiles such as cars, trucks, vans are not advisable for use in tractors and other farm machines.
Modern Tractor Lubricants are roughly classified into two types :
Universal Tractor Transmission Oils ( UTTO), and
Super Tractor Universal Oils (STOU)
The UTTO oil is a single multi-functional oil designed to be used for tractor transmission and hydraulic systems as well as wet brakes, clutches and final drives.
The STOU oil can be regarded as the UTTO having in addition an engine lubrication capability. The choice of any of the above-named categories is dictated by the design make of the machine which can in all cases be found in the Users Manual of the machine.
In our country, it is a fact that farm owners have tended to use lubricants originally meant for vehicles and cars for their farm equipment and continue to do so.
This practice causes irreversible damage to tractor engines and transmission components thereby reducing their productive life and creating high maintenance costs and eventual breakdowns of the machines.
This practice is no longer recommendable for modern tractors and other agricultural equipment and use of lubricants specially designed and formulated exclusively for tractors and other farm equipment must be encouraged and used to ensure that mechanisation plays its expected role in the PFJ programme.
The current practice is that equipment dealers and supplier companies import their lubricants to service the machinery they supply and they don’t come for free. They are very expensive and that is probably why machinery users often tend to resort to using “ordinary oils” for their machines and end up destroying the machines to the detriment of their business and the nation.
Fortunately, Ghana has a local lubricant blending plant which is ISO 9001 certified which is capable of producing high quality UTTO and STOU lubricants locally for farm machinery users to curtail the high attrition rate of farm equipment in the country.
This local Blending Plant in collaboration with its franchise private sector partners is capable of producing and supplying high quality lubricants for the the farming industry as a whole at comparatively lower cost and MOFA must explore the opportunities therein and lend its support appropriately.
Training of mechanics at Tractor Service Centres and individual tractor owners in the choice and use of tractor lubricants is worth considering by authorities at MOFA.
By Dr KA Kwakye
Goldmark Petroleum Services Ltd