Technology continues to be scarce among rural communities in Colombia. In an effort to help change this reality, SAP announced last week that it has joined forces with the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) and the Manuel Mejía Foundation to improve the quality of life for Colombian farmers by providing them with the technology and training they need to develop more sustainable business practices.
As part of the collaboration, FNC gave tablets to 5,000 rural farmers across Colombia, while SAP created a “coffee portal” that gives them access to relevant data such as daily prices, coffee market news, geographical farm information, coffee purchasing conditions, incentives and support programs. Through the portal, coffee farmers can access personalized sites containing price information and data specific to their farm and region.
Despite the vast collection of data compiled in the portal, FNC quickly realized most coffee farmers weren’t using it and pinpointed a lack of basic IT skills as the likely cause. To remedy this, SAP donated technical training to more than 500 coffee growers – teaching them how to effectively use mobile tablets and computers.
“We basically closed the gap between technology and education,” Lourdes Rosales, who heads up SAP’s CSR initiatives in Latin America, said of the project. “They’re getting less scared of technology. They’re getting closer to technology, and, ideally, they will get used to it because they’re already seeing benefits for their business.”
For many rural farmers, it’s nearly impossible to predict fluctuating daily prices and decide the best time to sell their coffee without making long treks to the nearest selling point. SAP technology allows farmers to view prices in real-time, view transaction history and even sell their coffee directly through the portal – ensuring fair and consistent prices across the value chain.
The training curriculum, developed by SAP for a series of one-day sessions, includes basic information like how to turn on a computer and browse the Web, as well as best practices for making the most of the portal, Rosales said. One family member from each farm was selected for the trainings and tasked with passing their skills along to the rest of the family.
“In providing them with the new tools and knowledge, that will serve as a great tool for community development,” Rosales said. “It will definitely help them take their business to the next level.”
SAP met its goal of training 500 farmers in 2013, and plans to resume talks with FNC early next year to set 2014 targets. Rosales said the company hopes to expand the project in the coming years as a continued initiative.
“We basically believe that investing in education and entrepreneurs is the best way to foster economic growth, and this story in Colombia is a great example,” Rosales said. “This should be a long-term initiative…and something that the Federation will keep investing in. It’s definitely worth it.”
Image credit: Training session with Colombian coffee farmers courtesy of SAP.
Based in Philadelphia, Mary Mazzoni is a freelance journalist who frequently writes about sustainability, corporate social responsibility and clean tech. Mary also contributes to Earth911; her work has appeared on the Huffington Post, Sustainable Brands and The Daily Meal. You can follow her on Twitter @mary_mazzoni.