Saturday 20 July 2019

Lesotho farmers advised to simply get on their bikes

Fingal students impress at BT Young Scientist exhibition

An enduring relationship has built up between the country of Lesotho and the students of Portmarnock Community School over several years ago and the students have often found ingenious ways to help the developing country and this year is no different.

Two Portmarnock Community School students entered the Young Scientist Exhibition with a simple but ingenious idea to help with a huge problem int he African country, that of soil erosion.

Their invention is a cheap and effective way of tilling the soil without digging too deep and making that same soil vulnerable to erosion.

One of the students, Caitline Murphy explained: 'We just wanted to come up with an idea that could increase the standard of living over there. Over there, agriculture is a bit part of their livliehood. 71 per cent of people in Lesotho live in rural areas and depend on the land.'

So an agricultural project seemed the way to go and the Caitlin and her project partner, Joshua Fitzgerald wanted to come up with something that could help farmers turn the soil but not as crudely as with a shovel or as expensively as using machinery. Their ingenious bike with spikes to turn the soil was the answer, built in consultation with Teagasc and our own Country Crest.

The student brought the bike to Lesotho to test it last year and since then, a local farmer in Lesotho has been trying it out, and by all accounts the results have been positive.

Joshua said: 'We have tested it. We travelled to Lesotho last year and conducted some experiments. We came to conclusion that our bike is useful technology.'

He added: 'Someone has been using it consistently for a year. We have heard back that they have adapted to using it often and they are seeing, in their opinion that soil erosion is happening less.'

The students see an opportunity to use the invention all over the developed world on small farms but have no interest in making a fast buck from their invention.

They have deliberately not patented the idea and plan to distribute blueprints for the invention in Lesotho and hope that the bike can be manufactured sustainably by the people of Lesotho themselves. The Portmarnock students are hoping to return to Lesotho this year to see the bike in action.

Fingal Independent