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Cow to Tractor, Not So Easy

When I think of farming, I think of big green tractors, huge plows, giant machines, and massive irrigation systems. I couldn't imagine anyone getting the job done without these machines until I walked 4 hours across rice fields in rural Nepal.

As I walked through the farms in Nepal, I felt as if I had stepped into a history book. In one direction, I saw farmers hand planting seeds. In another direction, I saw and then joined a woman swinging a knife to harvest the millet and tossing the grain into a large hand woven basket.

As I continued to walk, I saw children tying corn up in rows to dry. But most shocking of all, I saw no tractors, no machines, only buffalos and goats.

Farming with animal powered tools is something I had read about in history class, but honestly, I had no idea it still existed on such a large scale. Farmers in rural Nepal use hand-made plows made from a long wooden pole. This pole was attached to two buffalo using rope tied to another hand-made wooden harness. The farmer stands behind the animals and guides them slowly up and down the field as the hook dug into the dirt and plowed the land. The farmer worked slowly but smoothly. He made it look easy, so when he invited me to help him, I quickly agreed.

I probably went in too confidently because I failed horribly. The instant that I was handed the plow, the cows ran away from me, nearly pulling me to the ground and through the field.

My mom ran to help me but instead she escalated the disaster. Trying to control the cows, she pulled back on the plow's handle and pushed it into the ground until we heard a loud, 'Snap!" She broke the plow's handle.

Seeing these simple tools and how successful the farmers have established their farms, makes me wonder what more they could accomplish with advanced technology. The United Nations global goal #8 pushes for economic growth by "achieving higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation." I believe that by giving these farmers new tools to speed up their growing process will increase their productivity, product, and profits and thereby rise their economies. Tools, such as plows, will cut down on the time required for prepping the land. Additionally, irrigation systems will allow for farming even in the dry seasons.

Getting these tools and technology to rural Nepal is not easy. In the same way I carried my backpack hours across the fields, the only way to bring the tools to the farmers is also by carrying them. Roads are key. They would also benefit the community. This could more quickly bring in tools and technology while also making the transport of their produce easier and could encourage more farmers to sell their goods in the city.

Creating change is seldom fast and easy. From my trip, I saw how we can't simply replace a cow with a tractor. To achieve Global Goal #8, we must also consider the whole interconnected system: from increasing access to education on new technologies to building roads to bring in the tools and take out the goods. Once farmers begin to increase production, they will need channels and efficient ways to get their produce to market. I also wonder what the cultural impact would be if we quickly replaced the cow with a tractor. Change is complex.


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