DesignEarthworks & Earth ResourcesSoil RehabilitationWater Harvesting

More Thinking Out Loud About Earth Repair Tools: The Agricultural Specification Unimog

Continuing with the theme of my last piece, another ideal potential equipment platform is the agricultural spec’d Unimog, manufactured by Mercedes-Benz. These are highly versatile and very reliable vehicles equipped with capabilities typically associated with tractors — namely 3-point linkages, PTOs (Power Take Offs), and hydraulics. Just as with the tractor, a broad array of implements may be used for the purpose of repairing degraded landscapes.

The added benefit afforded by using the Unimog platform is the transport capability– whether it’s for equipment, bulk material, or people. This is especially important in places that present special transportation challenges due to the lack of good roads and general infrastructural development. In my own experience, this type of vehicle would be particularly useful in a place like Somaliland for instance (as shown in the following photos).

The distances separating towns and villages are quite far with paved roads found connecting only some of the more populated areas — which are relatively few. Aside from the need for tough and reliable 4×4 vehicles to provide basic travel capabilities, any intended work in such a setting — or similar environments — has to be coupled with this platform.

The storied Unimog does just that. It’s the perfect ‘prime mover/power unit‘ given the context.

Even jobs such as drilling and digging wells/bore holes for water which often require the use of mobile drilling rigs can be more than adequately covered in addition to the aforementioned functionality.

There are also examples of Unimogs using rubber track replacements for tires to reduce ground pressure and the damage (compaction) associated with tires and heavy vehicle use (similar to tractors). This is found to be the case particularly with older model vehicles.

It’s good to be aware of the many options that exist in helping to facilitate the work we’re engaged in. If the resources are made available and the possibility of putting such tools to use is presented to us, then we have a great opportunity to make our good intentions very real, and very fast.

Further Reading:

Rhamis Kent

Rhamis Kent is a consultant with formal training in mechanical engineering (University of Delaware, B.S.M.E. '95) and permaculture-based regenerative whole systems design. He has previously worked for the renowned American inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen at DEKA Research & Development, with subsequent engineering work ranging from medical device research and development to aerospace oriented mechanical design. After taking an interest in the design science of Permaculture, he sought extended training with permaculture expert and educator Geoff Lawton at the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia. This led to his involvement with design work connected to the development of Masdar City in UAE after Mr. Lawton and his consulting company (Permaculture Sustainable Consultancy Pty. Ltd.) were contracted by AECOM/EDAW to identify solutions which fit the challenging zero emissions/carbon neutral design constraint of the project.


  1. Yes! But can it pull a Keyline plow. ;-} (I’m sure it probably can, though is it geared low enough to satisfy the likes of Darren Doherty?)

  2. We used these in the South African army for years even developed all of our current armoured personell carriers on the Unimog chassis, anyone who is familiar with dense African bushland will know that it stands as a good testiment for the effectiveness of this design

    1. From the Designers Manual:

      Practical Design Considerations of Permaculture

      “•The systems we construct should last as long as possible, and take least maintenance.”

      “•These systems, fueled by the sun, should produce not only their own needs, but the needs of the people creating or controlling them. Thus, they are sustainable, as they sustain both themselves and those who construct them.”

      “•We can use energy to construct these systems, providing that in their lifetime, they store or conserve more energy than we use to construct them or to maintain them.”

      In other words, the idea is to use nonrenewable resources to establish/re-establish long-term regenerative “permanent” elements. Heavy equipment (like earthmovers, tractors, Unimogs, etc.) allows for that to be done quickly and with relatively few people. We are advocating taking advantage of the “technological opportunity” presented to us by having these tools available.

      This should be a practical consideration – not an ideological one. Permaculture isn’t dogma. The tool shouldn’t be demonized; the problem to be sorted out is the intent and the purpose of the tool’s use by the one using it. Permaculture should be seen as a means to help direct and inform that intent.

  3. Last time I was in India 3 years back I saw a new half truck, half tractor. I recon it would be cheap. It was red so probably a Mahindra.

  4. The Indian tractor manufacture Mahindra does the model called the Shaan. 2 wheel drive, a trucks flat bed, 40 kph speed, got to be much cheaper.

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