Indigenous rural transportation: a farmer’s innovation

Post harvest transportation of farm produce requires designing and developing vehicles with adequate knowledge on engineering and technology aspects. However, less formally-educated farmers too have tried developing indegenous transport suitable for local conditions.  This is one such case, where a farmer has innovated  a two wheeler drawn trailer.

Mr.Karunakaran, a young farmer in Purana Singapalayam village in Pondicherry, India, belongs to Vanniyar, a socially backward community He had only 8 years of formal education but this did not deter him from innovating. There were three specific factors influencing Karunakarn to innovate. The distance between the farm and Karunakaran’s household being 3 km. made it dificult to transport the farm produce. Secondly, locally plied indigenous vehicle for transportation called ‘Thattu Rickshaw’ also inspired Karunakaran to device a new transport vehicle. Lastly an old axle, the remnant of his grandfather’s horse carraige prompted Karunakaran to use it meaningfully. Thus, Karunakaran’s inspiration from indigenous form of transportation (Thattu Rickshaw), cue from local resource (Tonga’s axle), and compelling transportation problems were responsible for developing a design of the two-wheeler drawn trailer.

Design and development of the trailer was based on Karunakaran’s experience, understanding of its various limitations and his intuition. The trailer was evolved in stages. Finally, third version of the trailer was the one which was the best bet. The two wheeler drawn trailer has the following components: Chassis, Carrier, Handle, Wheels, Bearing, Fork, and Hitch Arrangement.

Merits of the trailer

  1. The two-wheeler drawn trailer is suitable where there were no ideal roads, driveways and roadways. It could be plied on fields with stubbles, rural footways between and across the fields, byroads, and even on beaten paths. Such a means of rural transportation comes in handy and most suitable for difficult, complex and risk prone (with ups and downs, with pits and pot holes, sandy, gravelly, thorny, uneven, sloppy, raised, wet, bushy, narrow, zigzag, and bendy) trails and tracks making jobs easier, quicker, economical, efficient and effective for the farmer.
  2. It is appropriate for places where the tractors cannot drive in. Where tractors cannot drive in, farmers have to engage human labor to carry commodities as head loads. Otherwise, farmers depend on two wheelers for transportation, that too if the pathways permit its driving. Hence, the two-wheeler drawn trailer is best bet by substituting costly, time consuming, laborious human labor and drudgery in moving goods using two wheelers without trailer, where tractors cannot ply.
  3. It is compact enough to be pulled by a two-wheeler and could be driven by any person acquainted with driving a two-wheeler. It is comprehensive enough to accommodate farm products of diverse shapes, sizes and weights, ranging from coconut fronds, banana plants, pruned branches and twigs, fruits, coconuts, fertilizers, seeds, non-farm commodities like cement bags, sand and food utensils and even to offer seat for commuters. It has a capacity to carry one thousand kilograms of load.
  4. Another strength of two-wheeler drawn trailer is its ability to be used for multifarious functions. It has been used for various situations, conditions and problems. Thus, the trailer is a most flexible and supple means of farm and non-farm transport. Following are the various purposes for which the trailer has been used:
  • Gathering and transportation of coconut fronds
  • Moving sugarcane setts and harvested canes
  • Transportation of produce like guava, banana, coconuts and groundnut pods
  • Transporting submersible water pumps
  • Moving earth
  • Transporting fertiliser bags, bricks, cattle feed bags, firewood etc.
  • Commuting people
  • Trailer as pull-cart on streets for selling vegetables
  1. The two-wheeler drawn trailer reduces drudgery as depicted below.

Table 1 : Percentage of time saved in transportation of select commodities

Sl.No Commodity Percentage of time saved (Compared with Scooter)
1 Banana Leaves and fruit bunches (One bundle of 200 leaves and 10 bunches of banana) 71.43
2 Coconut (6 bags of coconuts of 55 nuts each) 71.43
3 Knitted Coconut Fronds [Keethu] (8 bundles of 25 fronds each) 57.54
4 Fertilizer Bags (15 bags of 50 kg each) 78.57

Reduction in drudgery in carrying of heavy loads manual. For instance, thousand kilograms of load had to be split into head loads or hand loads, if human labor is employed. This would cost human labor. On the other hand, Mr.Karunakaran’s two-wheeler drawn trailer can shift at once thousand kilograms together as a unit. Thus drudgery of lifting heavy weights is avoided.

Reduction in drudgery in traveling the distance to transport heavy loads: Repeated shunting between farm and home is required if laborers are engaged to move one tonne load. This involves great drudgery of repeated walking, which is precluded in two-wheeler drawn trailer.

Table.2 : Comparison of Labor Requirement In Collection and Gathering of Coconut Fronds Manually and Using Trailer

Parameter Manual Collection and Gathering of Coconut Fronds Collection and Gathering of Coconut Fronds Using Trailer
Events Involved In Collecting And Gathering Fronds 1. Picking a coconut frond.2. Pulling the fronds to gather them at a place.3. Walking to pick other fronds in order to gather them together.4. Pulling gathered fronds to soaking ponds in batches. 1. Trailer is moved to the spots where coconut fronds are lying one after the other.2. Fronds are picked and loaded on the trailer.3.  The trailer can lifted from one end in order to unload the fronds by sliding down the slope, thus making unloading easy and effective.
Work Saved Walking to and fro repeatedly to pick, pull, gather and pull the fronds to pond is essential Walking to and fro repeatedly to pick, pull, gather and pull the fronds to pond is avoided
Laborers Required Three Women Laborers One Women Laborer
Laborers Reduction Nil Two Women Laborers


 Reduction in drudgery in the frequency of loading and unloading: Besides less number of head loads and hand loads carried, the trailer also reduces number of times of manual loading and unloading. Eventually, drudgery involved in frequent loading and unloading of human labor is drastically reduced.

7.      Time Saving

The usage of trailer saves a lot of time. For instance, transportation of two baskets of guava requires 14 minutes (one to and fro trip between farm and home) by scooter without trailer. Consequently, total time required for transportation of 6 baskets of 40 kg each using scooter without trailer is 42 minutes (3 trips X 14 minutes per trip = 42 minutes). On the other hand, when the two-wheeler drawn trailer is used the total time required for transportation of same quantity is only 24 minutes. This amounts to 42.86 per cent savings in time in the case of guava. Also refer Table. 1.

  1. Labor Saving

Table 2 presents an experience of how the two-wheeler drawn trailer saves labor in the case of transportation of coconut fronds. Thus, reduction of laborers from three women to one woman was achieved in this case. This accrues savings to farmer.

Sustainability of Technology

The two-wheeler drawn trailer is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable.

Mr.Karunakaran got annual returns of Rs.5666.50 from his two wheeler drawn trailer. But he incurred an expenditure of only Rs.1800.00 for plying and maintenance of two wheeler drawn trailer. So net gains Mr.Karunakaran made by using his two wheeler drawn trailer was Rs.3866.50. On the other hand, total cost incurred by him for manufacturing his trailer (including all versions) was Rs.3000.00. Thus profits and savings from the trailer clearly outweigh the expenditure incurred on manufacturing, plying and maintenance.

Table.3: Economics of Mr.Karunakaran’s Two Wheeler Drawn Trailer

Sl.No. Particulars Of Economy of the Trailer Amount In Rs.
1 Annual Cost of Plying the Trailer for Transportation 1300.00
2 Maintenance Cost (Trailer and scooter) 500.00
3 Annual Savings from Using the Trailer 3667.50
4 Annual Profits Obtained by Using the Trailer 1999.00
A Total annual returns (3+4) 5666.50
B Total annual expenditure (1+2) 1800.00
C Annual Net Gains to Farmer By Plying the Trailer (A– B) 3866.50
D Total Cost of Manufacturing the Trailer by Farmers Locally 3000.00

 Usage of scooter without trailer for farm transportation incurs incremental fuel consumption. Due to less carrying capacity, more number of trips between farm and household is required when transported by scooter, compared to the two wheeler drawn trailer. But the two wheeler drawn trailer requires less traveling and hence less fuel to transport the same quantity of the commodities since the carrying capacity is thousand kilograms. By using the two wheeler drawn trailer burning of fossil fuel is reduced, thus  reducing vehicular pollution. Therefore the trailer is more environmental friendly than the transport presently being used.

Besdies being economically and environmentally advantageous, the two wheeler drawn trailer enjoys the patronage of the immediate social system that sustains the technology. Such social utility of the technology wins recognition, authority and power for Mr.Karunakaran. He also commands respect from members of the village because of this technology. This motivates him to put to use his technology sustainably as evidenced below.

The trailer in use

The trailer has helped in transpoting cattle feed collectively from the Cooperative Milk Society to the village. Normally Karunakaran gets one or two bags of subsidised cattle feed from the society. As the carrying capacity of the trailer is more, now many farmers together transport the feed to the village.

Secondly, it is customary for farmers to transport their produce to ‘Farmers’ Market’ using the trucks of Government’s agro-service corporation. But height of the truck poses hardship to farmers in loading. Mr.Karunakaran’s trailer when parked by the side of the truck is appropriate to the condition by virtue of its height and serves the purpose best. Because of this reason other farmers use Mr.Karunakaran’s trailer for loading their produce with least difficulty. Thus, the trailer is a dire essentiality for loading on to the truck by farmers.

Besides, Karunakarn has also used the trailer for commuting people, lending it for various religious and community functions, making it a most sought after transportation in that region.

Table.4 : Qualitative and Quantitative indicators of success of  Mr.Karunakaran’s Two Wheeler Drawn Trailer

Sl.No. Indicators of Success Qualitative and Quantitative Units
1 For complex, diverse and risk prone roads Best bet
2 Where tractors cannot drive in Break Through
3 Daily transportation need of small farmer Affordable & Accessible
4 Socially Humane
5 Capacity One Tonne
6 Agro-products Transportation – Case Experiences Seven
7 Transporting Non-farm commodities – Case Experiences Ten
8 Cost Reduction 80 percent*
9 Travel Reduction 80 percent*
10 Drudgery Reduction 77 percent*
11 Fuel Reduction 73 percent*
12 Labor Reduction 66 percent*
13 Time Saved 64 Percent*

* As compared with scooter / bullock cart / tractor. Figures averaged for select commodities and rounded off.


Indicators of success (Table.4) and strengths of Mr.Karunakaran’s two wheeler drawn trailer offer great potential for replication of the benefit for farmers at large in similar agro-climatic, biophysical, labor scarce and socioeconomic landscapes and farming situations. With participation of public and/or private sector, this model can be become an effective, efficient and low cost post harvest management technology. Well researched and commercial model of Mr.Karunakaran’s design coupled with strategic marketing and promotion would help wide spread scaling up of the innovation.

S.Anandkumar  and  S.Kumarakurubaran

 S.Anandkumar, PhD, Assistant Professor (Agricultural Extension), Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru College Of Agriculture and Research Institute, Serumavilangai, Nedungadu, Karaikal, 609607, India, E-mail:       Mobile: 04368-312 560

 S.Kumarakurubaran, B.Sc., (Agriculture)


Recently Published Articles

Women-led farm initiatives

Women-led farm initiatives

By using organic farming methods, developing connections with markets, generating income, and enhancing their own...


Call for articles

Share your valuable experience too

Share This