Chopping machine

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Most people who cultivate corn in these parts of the Dry Zone outside of Mandalay save their cornstalks after harvesting. The purpose of storing, drying, and then chopping the stalks is to convert them into cattle feed, either to feed to their own animals or to sell to others.

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The chopping machine itself was built by a craftsperson named U Ba Maung over a decade ago in Mandalay’s industrial zone, and cost 200,000 kyat (at the time of manufacture around $150). The “Wuling” brand Chinese-manufactured engine powering the machine cost the operator another 400,000 kyat (around $300 when he purchased it) at approximately the same time ten years ago. He mobilized the entire setup by mounting the engine and machine on a cart so that a pair of cattle may pull it. With the cost of the wooden cart totaling 600,000 kyat (~$450) the entire venture set him back around the equivalent of $900. He borrows the cattle of a friend or arranges to have the cattle of those hiring him for his services transport the machine from his house/workshop to the job site.

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Spare parts for the chopping machine and engine may be gotten in Mandalay, with some fabricated domestically and others shipped in from China. Over the years he’s had to make plenty of creative repairs to keep his contraption running, including his routine sharpening of the chopping blade (here you can see him using a sharpener made in India for the task) and the creation of a fuel tank for the engine out of what used to be a container for a cleaning product fitted with a hose and gasket. His next big plan is to purchase a new motor for the machine with this season’s proceeds and use the engine pictured here to generate electricity for his home.

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