Azada, Powrah, Changkol, Jembe or Grub Hoe

>> Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Perhaps the most ancient and the most widely used agricultural tool is the hoe. The earliest known hoes were forked sticks. Hoes have been made of animal antlers and shoulder blades, of shells, of flaked stone and of course, various types of metal.

90px-RomanHoeBlade DSC_1839 On the left is a hoe made from bison scapula or shoulder blade. The photo on the right is of an old iron Roman hoe. Some of the earliest inhabitants of the Americas used hoes made from the bones of the animals they killed for meat, from mussel shells and of stone.

hoenotchedsmkaolinrittertrism This photo, taken from an internet site, shows the front, back and side of a chipped or flaked stone hoe. Most of us are quite familiar with the common garden hoe, a light-weight metal hoe used for weeding and digging the surface of the soil.

But, the hoes used by the majority of the people of the world, especially third word countries, is of a much heavier type.

hoe_3 In many areas the hoe that is commonly used has a very short handle, causing numerous back problems. As pictured here, the blade is quite long and heavy. It enables the user to dig deep into the soil. Longer handled hoes make the job much easier for the user and makes for easier digging of the soil than using a shovel or digging fork.

AW005233 The Chinese man in this picture is holding two of this type of hoe. And, as I mentioned in my title they are called by many different names around the world. They are known as azada in Europe and South America. In India they are called powrah, mammoty or mamooty. In parts of Asia they are known as changkol or changkul. And, in Africa it is known as jembe. In Okinawa it is called a kuwa, kue and gawa, where it is also a traditional Martial Arts weapon.

Last summer Darryl, Danny and I all purchased grub hoes. The grub hoe makes digging and cultivating with an easy chop-pull motion that is quick, but is SO much easier and gentler on the back than the stomp-bend-lift motion used with a shovel or spade.

digging_with_arrow-315x199 The above illustration shows the motion used. The following is taken from a web page of a company selling the grub hoe. “

Using a grub hoe (also called an Azada) is very different from using a shovel or spade. Instead of stomping or ramming a
shovel blade into the earth, the heavy-duty grub hoe blade swings from hip height down into the soil using it’s own weight,
gravity, and a little help from your arms. Instead of leaning over to lift the shovel load of soil with your back, with the long
handled azada you use your whole body to pull the thin slice of soil towards you into a previously cleared space.” I have had lower back problems for many years and I can attest to the truth of the above statement. Digging with a shovel or spade causes me a great deal of discomfort, but, although I need to rest occasionally, I am able to work up a fairly large area without having back pain.

The grub hoes we bought are 6 inches wide with a 5 foot long handle and weigh 3 pounds. A lighter weight and narrower version is available. For working small areas and raised beds they are much better than a roto-tiller. In fact, I am able to dig down deeper with the grub hoe than I could with a tiller. That is how I managed to hit the rocks I talked about in my last post.

A related hoe that we also purchased is the Italian grape hoe. The hoe is somewhat lighter in weight and is set at a sharper angle. It is “the fastest, sharpest weeding tool in the world.” It is really great in taking out heavy sod or weeds and grass that have gotten a “toe hold.”

For more information please check out the easy digging web site.


Mary Q Contrarie May 14, 2009 at 4:06 AM  

I bought a specialty garden hoe from called a grape hoe. I LOVE it. After reading your post I may have to order me a grub hoe as well.


Anonymous September 13, 2009 at 7:28 AM  

I used a grub hoe when I visited friends in rural Thailand and was amazed at how easy and pain-free it was. I also must watch my back. Just today I was looking to buy one for my garden and I found your post. I also found the company you bought the grub hoe from, I'm going to get one!

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