HOEING: To improve the farming experience of poor rural farmers in developing countries worldwide such as India, Pakistan, China, Indonesia and Africa. The aim is to alleviate the severe back injuries and upper body fatigue caused by the hoeing action which requires lifting of a 1.5kg metal blade attached to a wooden post, through user centered innovation and robust design. Special sensitivity has to be given as the hoe has been used over many centuries and is usually inherited from generation to generation, thereby making the hoe an integral part of rural farming communities which is immune to change. Any solutions must therefore be simple and durable for their acceptance into such communities.
POOR FARMERS: During April 2012 I visited rural farms in North Western Pakistan near my hometown Peshawar. One afternoon while having lunch with sugarcane farmers they revealed to me the unspoken secret of the farming community, that "hoeing is the most horrific part of our life". After lunch I made the farmers take me out to the field with their hoes to show me what they meant. That memorable moment along with comprehensive research on this topic has inspired me to redesign the hoe in the most empathetic and sustainable way possible.
INNOVATION, DESIGN & ENGINEERING: The development of the Stephoe was carried out at RCA & Imperial College London. Several full scaled prototypes were developed and tested until a long distance call from my father inspired me to rethink the hoe. I quickly tried many crude versions that led me to the final prototype which was successfully tested with farmers in Pakistan. A year later, 13 Stephoes are ready to be put through the ultimate test of acceptance, performance and a non-injurious hoeing experience. Successful results from this launch will follow further trials in other parts of Pakistan and other countries. My ambitions are to create a Stephoe kit consisting of a Do It Yourself type adapter system that could be installed onto any traditional hoe. Such a kit could then be shipped to any part of the world in order to help troubled farming communities that have relied on the hoe for centuries without change.