With new funding, 3d4AgDev hopes to develop labour-saving tools for smallholder women farmers in Africa. The program has kickstarted funding with efforts from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Exploration, and Phase I grant to the Plant and AgriBiosciences Research Centre in the National University of Ireland Galway. The financial support will allow the 3d4AgDev program to develop 3D printed prototypes intended to fit the needs of smallholder women farmers under various conditions: tailor-made for cultural sensitivity and soils and cropping systems.
Smallholder farmers are often at a disadvantage lacking innovative tools to save time and labour costs. It is the goal of 3d4AgDev to provide these women smallholders with more effective methods to farm and seek a competitive footing with larger farming entities. It is a small initiative that can have far-reaching ramifications for those farmers in need and hoping to live beyond hand-to-mouth. According to 3d4AgDev, over 1000 million smallholder farmers suffer from increasing labour costs, impacting the burdern on women and children. The prototype program aims to alleviate some of that cost with their User-Led Innovation with Rapid Prototyping so that these women can develop their own tools based on their specific labour needs.
3d4AgDev gives the African farmers, most specifically women in Sub-Saharan Africa, the opportunity to design tools and have a prototype manufactured by local blacksmiths and artisans. It is no surprise that such an initiative would find some big-name donors. Any time ground-breaking technology like 3D printing can reach the hands of those at an economic disadvantage to large market players, it is a good sign for innovators. As globalization simultaneously shrinks and expands our world, it is comforting to know people are hard at work breaking down borders, whether they be economic or geographic, to lend a hand to others with simply the innate connection of humanity.