Non-Profit Uses American Pre-Tractor Farming Tech and Skills to Help Small-Scale Farmers in Developing Countries

Tillers International, a 501(c)(3) based in Scotts, MI, that uses a ‘teach a man to fish’ approach to helping small-scale farmers, recently completed work on their newest seed planter, the P20a.

The new planter is intended to be built using easily accessible materials such as sheet metal and rebar which can almost always be found in remote areas of developing countries.

“This particular planter is specifically designed to be used on the soil of the West African country of Burkina Faso,” said Lem Montero of Tillers International. “Most small-scale farmers there only have oxen or donkeys as a source of power and live off the grid because there is no grid where they are. Each tool we help create is custom-designed for the region of their intended use.”

This particular planter, meant to be pulled by draft animals, was developed in collaboration with the Michigan State University College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, the Université Nazi Boni in Burkina Faso’s Houet Province, and Amish-owned Pioneer Equipment based in Ohio.

Currently, planting seeds is done by women and children bending over in the fields and using hand tools.

Using the planter brings many obvious benefits including relieving women and children of hours on the fields. But some benefits are better appreciated by farmers and manufacturers of farming equipment. For example, planting precisely spaced seeds in exact rows makes mechanized weeding with oxen possible.

Tillers International has been using traditional and historic American farming tech from the days before tractors as starting points for the tools they make for small-scale farmers without access to many resources. Farmers then come to clinics to learn how to best use the tools. The tools help farmers mechanize their work and introduce processes. Ultimately, the goal is to help farmers become more efficient and improve their crop yields.

Tillers International also teaches traditional practical skills such as blacksmithing, woodworking, and farming with animals in West Michigan.

Visit to learn more. Donations appreciated. Sponsorship opportunities are available.

ABOVE: A planter designed for Mozambique allowed this mother to work a field in less time than doing it by hand. It also allowed her to take care of her own child instead of relying on someone else to watch her baby.