Bullock Ploughing (plowing) in Ethiopia


Leaning bullock plowing in Ethiopia
Learning bullock ploughing in Ethiopia

I added a new skill to my CV last week. Most of the farmland of Ethiopia is ploughed with bullock ploughs (plows). One man and two bullocks can plough a quarter of a hectare, about 0.6 acre, per day. This area is known as a Timad and the area is used as a basis for measurement of yield. The video shows two different ploughing teams, starting with one in very stony soil. Note the calls used to control the bullocks. The second series shows another team: they were moved to a flatter area so that I and other scientists could try our hands at ploughing. It is done with one hand on the wooden plough and one holding (or, in my case, tripping over) the whip. My attempt is shown from 1.50 on the video, much to the amusement of the local children. The cattle knew their job and were easy to turn, but were a bit unsettled by the number of people around them. At the end I manage to knock out the wooden mould-board, and the plough becomes uncontrollable. As always, a ferenji (foreigner) accumulates a score of children around him, no matter how remote the area seems to be. The British horse-ploughs I have used have two handles, making them slightly easier to control (and also nearer sea level: the extra exertion needed at 2664m, 8700 feet altitude, is heard by my breathlessness in the video!), but the Ethiopian plough seemed to be less disturbed by hitting large stones.

Correction: 23/5/12: Timad is the term for the area ploughed by a pair of oxen in one day – when the land is soft. The area has been formalized using 50m ropes.