“La calidad de mi café salvó mi vida y la de mi familia”

Reyna Isabel Mamani es socia de la cooperativa Inambari, una de las ocho bases de la Central de Cooperativas CECOVASA, ubicada en el valle de Sandia en Puno. 

Reyna es una mujer emprendedora y desde hace mucho tiempo se dedica a los cultivos de café y cítricos en su chacra, en el distrito de Alto Inambari. A pesar de que la región de Puno, en la que ella vive, es una de las que presentó menores casos confirmados del virus Covid-19, la pandemia ha afectado a los(as) pequeños(as) agricultores(as) de la cooperativa CECOVASA, a la cual pertenece, de diferentes formas. 

“Esta pandemia nos ha afectado a todos en todo sentido … A veces, solo con el café no podemos solventar nuestros gastos. La pandemia ha llegado rápido y no nos ha dado tiempo para prepararnos,” cuenta Reyna. Comenta también que uno de los principales desafíos a los cuales ha tenido que enfrentarse es la falta de mano de obra. Debido a las restricciones de movimiento, las personas que normalmente eran contratadas para la cosecha, no han podido llegar a las zonas cafeteras. “Por la falta de mano de obra se ha estado cayendo el café, afectando a los agricultores.”

No solo la mano de obra no ha podido llegar. Muchos de los alimentos, que normalmente llegaban desde la sierra de Puno, también han sido escasos durante los más de 100 días de cuarentena nacional establecida por el gobierno central. Reyna cuenta que ella y su familia pasaron momentos verdaderamente difíciles.

“Ahora ya estamos más organizados, pero cuando la cuarentena recién empezó, nos afectó mucho, hubo mucha desesperación. Mi familia no ha recibido ninguno de los bonos del gobierno.”

Reyna asegura que lo que la salvó en esta pandemia fue su café de calidad. Ella explica que en la central CECOVASA, primero se paga el adelanto del café y luego, entre los meses de febrero y mayo del año siguiente, se paga el reintegro, el cual depende de la calidad del café. Gracias a su esfuerzo, ella cosecha café de gran calidad, llegando a obtener hasta 86 puntos. “Gracias a ese reintegro yo he podido comer, eso me salvó. Yo valoro mi café. En estas temporadas de pandemia, eso fue lo que nos salvó a los cafetaleros.”

Reyna reconoce que se hubiera podido preparar mejor para obtener hortalizas de su chacra durante la cuarentena. Ella tiene un huerto del cual pudo cosechar algunos productos como lechugas y tomates. Sin embargo, cree que hubiera podido cosechar muchas más hortalizas, las suficientes para toda su familia, si la pandemia no la hubiera sorprendido. 

“Yo no cambio por nada mi valle. Aquí tenemos todo. Hierbas que podemos comer, aguas en las quebradas. Hubiéramos podido hacer mucho, hubiéramos podido abastecer a toda nuestra población. Ahora, después de esta pandemia, vamos a estar siempre preparados.”

 

Cooperation, cooperatives

By Trilce Oblitas, Peru Manager.

Since 1923, the first Saturday of July is the date to commemorate Cooperativism as it is the the International Day of Cooperatives. Though this day focusses on a different and relevant thematic each year, 2020 being Climate Change, it should allow us, considering the defiant context, to look back at how Cooperativism came to be and why it represents an organizational structure that challenged the status quo on the relationship between workers, a fair wage and working conditions, and the option to have a say in the business if a member. To date, according to the United Nations and the International Cooperative Alliance, there are 3 million cooperatives in the globe which employ around 280 million people.

It was during the late 1700s and mid 1800s that new forms of workers’ associations came to be, initially in Europe, but soon it would propagate to other regions were, it is worth mention, different forms of collaborative work had been in place prior to colonization. In Peru for example, the Inca civilization had exercised different collaborative and communal forms of work such as the Ayllu, Ayni and Minka. However, and in particular looking at the peasant and agricultural communities, which in Peru makes close to 30% of the cooperative type, during and after colonization, these forms of community-based collaboration were eradicated and a exploitative relationship between land-owners and land-workers were established.

Building on the spirit of cooperative work and the demand for a fair share of income, cooperativism defies this exploitation and also the enrichment of few at top at the expense of the majority at the bottom and it looks at eradicating the middle man which would usually get more income than the producers themselves. As such, while in Peru the Cooperativism movement, as we know it nowadays, had different waves and it was a social figure of organization pre-colonization, it only reached legality in 1964. However, it was not until the First Agrarian Reform lead by Velasco Alvarado, in 1969, that the exploitative, almost slavery-based, relationship between the land-owners and the land-workers, the peasants, was rebelled against. This is probably an important moment to look at, as it represented the beginning of a shift in the development paradigm and the role of social organization from a democratic lens.

According to the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), founded 125 years ago, cooperatives can be defined as an autonomous association of people that, voluntarily, have decided to work together in order to satisfy their needs and  social, cultural, economic aspirations shared. How do they do it? Through the creation of an enterprise/company that is co-owned by them and democratically governed.  Cooperativism can be a true democratic form of organization as it fights poverty and creates wealth to be shared equally between its members, “(…) this results from the co-operative principle of members’ economic participation: ‘Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative.’ Because co-operatives are people-centred, not capital-centred”,  they do not perpetuate, nor accelerate capital concentration and they distribute wealth in a more fair way” (United Nations).

Though working in development does not make organizations particularly democratic, it is well-known that top-down approaches resonate across the sector, I dare to postulate that Cooperativism and sustainable development are intrinsically connected. Furthermore, the social, economic and environmental commitments to their communities and the global community, accounts for a true form of sustainability. Perhaps it is then possible to say that Cooperativism is not only capable of challenging socio-economic structures thought to be fixed, but also transform them.

During the last 5 years, it has been a true privilege to be able to directly work and learn from the Cooperative movement and the agricultural world in Peru, Latin American and East Africa, were Producers Direct has over 38 partner organizations. These organizations and its members are truly inspiring as small-holder producers are not only the driving force of the cooperative values, but also the true pioneers of bottom-up and participatory principles of transformation which guide our vision of what sustainable development stands for and deeply represents our (shared) identity.

Thank you to all Cooperativistas. On the International Cooperative Day, we commemorate your hard work and celebrate the cooperative movement values that shape our own.

Covid 19 and Coffee in Uganda – Nicodemus Bamuhangaine

In an attempt to limit the spread of Covid-19 in the communities, the office of the President in Uganda came up with several regulations. These, although necessary, have affected smallholder producer’s lives, including work and financial stability.  

Nicodemus Bamuhangaine is in charge of extension and organic certification in Ankole Coffee Producers Cooperative Union (ACPCU), a coffee producer cooperative in Uganda. He shares with us his experience and how he and his family are dealing with the current situation:

“For the temporary solution. Yes. Go farming, do agriculture. If you can access land you are not restricted in your movement to the farm area. Go and do farming! So when you have food then partly you are safe for the rest of the days. You never know, at any time when the pandemic is not longer here then you will sell food. Because you are not doing business. But in agriculture you can do fine things. Particularly me, that’s what I’m doing. Yeah. Yeah. I’m doing agriculture.”

If you want to listen to Nicodemus’ whole testimony, listen to the audio here


Transcript:

I’m Nicodemus Bamuhangaine. Working for Ankole Coffee Producers Cooperative Union (ACPCU) and I’m in charge of extension and organic certification. 

I live in Mbarara in Western Uganda. 

In an attempt to limit the spread of coronavirus in the communities, the office of the President came up with several regulations. These include: suspension of all public gatherings; closure of offices; closure of businesses. Then all the schools were closed, the universities suspended. All public transport was suspended. 

All these are affecting day-to-day life. All these regulations affect human life. For example, suspension of the public means of transport, even the Boda-Bodas [motorcycle taxis] which were suspended. People can’t move from one place to another. Pregnant women who want to go to hospital for delivery. It is a struggle. You first  go to the RDC [Resident District Commissioner], we have only one RDC per district who is a Presidential representative in the district. So, it is not easy for everyone to access the RDC. Many people are there. Those that fall sick, it is not easy to go to the hospital because there are no transport. 

Some offices, for example agricultural factories were kept open – they are allowed to operate. But workers don’t stay at the factories, so they need to go home, but there is no transport. Because private cars were suspended, all sorts of movement were not allowed: except a few.  The so-called ‘essential services’ like the electricity, the national water, and the government vehicles,plus the security vehicles, only. That means a civilian or a local person, it’s not easy for us to move 

Personally, these regulations has greatly affected my work. Because I rarely go to the office, much of the time I work from home – because of the limitation of the transport. I can’t move, I’m not allowed to drive, I’m not allowed to move with the Boda Boda. So, it is not easy. Only a motorcycle is allowed to move with 1 person, it is in a restricted time. By midday you should be back home. So it is not easy to ride a motorcycle from where I reside to where I work from and ensure that by midday I’m back. 

Secondly, there are other requirements that must be ensured at the workplace, which are standard operating procedures. We have reduced the number of workers, so we have few workers who can accomplish the work that should be done in a specific time. Because we have shipments sometimes, we want coffee to be sorted but it can’t be completed in a limited time because we have limited workers in an attempt to ensure the social distancing requirement. Then we have to buy the protective gears, the PPE [personal protective equipment], like the face masks, the sanitisers, all that kind of arrangement is not easy for the organisation and for us to implement. 

On the issue of the effect of the pandemic on the financial stability, this is greatly being experienced. For example my family, my wife operates a small business, merchandise. But it was closed. It is now almost 2 months. She’s not working at all, so that means she’s earning nothing. So that means the family is completely dependent on me. 

For the temporary solution. Yes. Go farming, do agriculture. If you can access land you are not restricted in your movement to the farm area. Go and do farming! So when you have food then partly you are safe for the rest of the days. You never know, at any time when the pandemic is not longer here then you will sell food. Because you are not doing business. But in agriculture you can do fine things. Particularly me, that’s what I’m doing. Yeah. Yeah. I’m doing agriculture.

 

Entrevista, Samuel – Huadquiña

Creemos que los jóvenes son el futuro de la agricultura y que tienen la capacidad de mejorar la calidad de vida de muchas personas en sus comunidades. Lo confirmamos tras entrevistar a Samuel Smith Pérez, un joven de la cooperativa Huadquiña, que pasa la cuarentena en su chacra en Santa Teresa, Cusco. Después de que un aluvión dejara a su comunidad casi incomunicada hace un par de meses y de que el gobierno restrinja el tránsito para contrarrestar los contagios por Covid19, su familia y su comunidad se han visto afectadas. Ya no pueden vender sus productos, como paltas, granadillas y plátanos en los mercados locales. Sin embargo, Samuel logra ver las oportunidades en medio de la crisis que vivimos mundialmente:

“Durante esta cuarentena que, sin duda representa una profunda crisis en diferentes sistemas, como el de salud, debemos ver nosotros, como productores, una oportunidad para desarrollar nuevos proyectos para mejorar la calidad de nuestro café, ya que tenemos todas las condiciones necesarias para lograrlo. Nosotros estamos buscando la forma de innovar en nuestra tecnología de procesamiento de café y desarrollando otros proyectos relacionados a la cadena de producción, con el objetivo de mejorar la calidad de nuestro producto”

Puedes oír la entrevista completa aquí:

Response to Covid-19 / Respuesta al Covid-19

Covid-19 & Global Food Systems

Looking beyond the immediate global health crisis presented by Covid-19, attention is increasingly focused on the devastating impacts of the global pandemic on the sustainability of global food systems. Rural communities have historically been hardest-hit by similar pandemics. Under-resourced health systems will struggle to respond. Social distancing and lockdowns, effective in the global North, will struggle in the global South to protect the most vulnerable, who don’t have the luxury of working from home or stocking their homes with food for 14+ days.

Safeguarding the world’s food systems is now an immediate priority. In order to do this, we must look to the experts – smallholder farmers – who produce 70% of our food. Our farmer-led model works in direct partnership with an international network of smallholder-owned farming cooperatives, women’s groups and youth groups producing a variety of crops including maize, rice, sorghum, fruits, vegetables, honey, coffee, tea, and cocoa. Our model provides end-to-end support services from farm-to-market, blending in-person and digital solutions, all designed by farmers, for farmers.

Please read our full response to the crisis and get in touch if you have any questions.


Covid-19 y los sistemas alimentarios mundiales

Mirando más allá de la inmediata crisis de salud global ocasionada por el Covid-19, la atención debe enfocarse en los efectos devastadores que esta pandemia global tendrá en la sostenibilidad de los sistemas alimentarios mundiales. Históricamente, las comunidades rurales han sido las más afectadas por epidemias mundiales como la que estamos viviendo en la actualidad. Los sistemas de salud con pocos recursos tendrán dificultades para responder. El distanciamiento social y medidas que han sido efectivas en los países del hemisferio norte, podrían generar grandes problemas en el hemisferio sur, donde muchas personas son vulnerables y no pueden darse el lujo de trabajar desde casa o abastecer sus hogares con alimentos que alcancen para más de 14 días.

La protección de los sistemas alimentarios mundiales se ha convertido en una prioridad inmediata en la agenda mundial. Nuestro modelo liderado por agricultores trabaja en asociación con una red internacional de cooperativas de pequeños agricultores, asociaciones de mujeres y grupos de jóvenes que producen una variedad de cultivos, tal como maíz, arroz, sorgo, frutas, verduras, miel, café, té y cacao. Nuestro modelo proporciona servicios de soporte desde el inicio al fin de la cadena productiva (desde la granja hasta el mercado), combinando soluciones presenciales y digitales, todas diseñadas por agricultores, para agricultores.

Lea nuestra respuesta completa a la crisis y póngase en contacto si tiene alguna pregunta.

Día Internacional de la Mujer

En el año 1975 las Naciones Unidas institucionalizó el 8 de marzo como el Día Internacional de la Mujer. De acuerdo con las Naciones Unidas, el Día Internacional de la Mujer “es un buen momento para reflexionar acerca de los avances logrados, pedir más cambios y celebrar la valentía y la determinación de las mujeres de a pie que han jugado un papel clave en la historia de sus países y comunidades.” En Producers Direct queremos compartir las historias de dos mujeres que han logrado grandes avances en cuanto a la equidad de género en sus cooperativas y comunidades en general. Ambas son parte de nuestra red de productores y productoras ¡y no podríamos estar más orgullos@s de ello!

Esperanza Dionisio rompe estereotipos como gerenta de la Cooperativa Pangoa. Ella fue la primera mujer en asumir la gerencia de una cooperativa de de café en Perú. En la actualidad, es poco común ver a una mujer asumiendo ese cargo pero, hace más de 20 años, cuando Esperanza lo hizo, era para muchos impensable. Eso no detuvo a Esperanza, por el contrario, la motivó a trabajar en la cooperativa con el objetivo de que se empiece a valorar el importante rol que cumplen las mujeres en las diferentes actividades económicas de la comunidad. Es así como en 1997 se creó el Comité de Mujeres (CODEMU) de la Cooperativa Pangoa, el cual promueve el liderazgo y el empoderamiento y las capacita para ello. El año pasado fue nombrada la primera campeona de sostenibilidad de la Specialty Coffee Association, un reconocimiento que reciben individuos que realizan un trabajo excepcional en pro de la sostenibilidad del cultivo de café en el mundo. Esperanza no es solo un orgullo para su cooperativa, lo es también para todo el Perú. 

A más de 12 mil kilómetros de distancia, en Kenia, la falta de oportunidades en actividades económicas como la agricultura es también un desafío al cual las mujeres deben enfrentarse día a día. Paired Mursi, una agricultora trabajando en cultivo de tejidos de plátano en la Cooperativa Sireet OEP, comenta que en la sociedad en la que viven, hasta hace poco no era bien visto que las mujeres realizaran trabajos en las fincas, pues debían estar cuidando a sus familias. Sin embargo, se han dado cambios en la sociedad, generados por los esfuerzos de mujeres como Esperanza, y ahora se acepta que las mujeres participen de las actividades agrícolas, permitiendo que muchas de ellas sean dueñas de sus propias fincas. Paired ha asistido a capacitaciones en el Centro de Excelencia de Creación de Microemprendimientos en Sireet, las cuales le han dado las habilidades necesarias para administrar su finca como un pequeño negocio. Gracias a ello, Paired no solo genera ingresos para su familia, gracias a la diversificación, también asegura que tengan una buena nutrición, pues consumen los productos de buena calidad que ella misma cultiva. 

Sabemos que los casos de Esperanza y Paired no son aislados. Sabemos que hay muchas mujeres alrededor del mundo luchando por una mayor equidad en la agricultura rural. ¡Las reconocemos y agradecemos en el Día Internacional de la Mujer!

International Women’s Day

In 1975, the United Nations declared March 8 as International Women’s Day. According to the UN, International Women’s Day “is a good time to reflect on the progress made, ask for more changes and celebrate the courage and determination of women who have played a key role in the history of their countries and communities.” At Producers Direct we want to share the stories of two women who have made great progress in advancing gender equality in both their cooperatives and communities in general. We are proud to include both as part of our network of producers!

Esperanza Dionisio is the pioneering manager of the cooperative, Pangoa in Peru. She was the first woman to take over the management of a coffee cooperative in Peru and it is still rare to see a woman assuming that position. But more than 20 years ago when Esperanza did it, it was almost unthinkable! That did not stop Esperanza. On the contrary, it motivated her to work her way up in the cooperative and bring their attention to the valuable role that women play in the different economic activities of the community. This is how, in 1997, the Women’s Committee (CODEMU) of the Pangoa Cooperative was created. The CODEMU  promotes women’s empowerment and provides training for women to take on leadership roles. Last year, she was named the first sustainability champion of the Specialty Coffee Association, an award received for exceptional work in sustainable coffee cultivation around the world. Esperanza is not only a source of great pride for her cooperative, but for the whole of Peru!

More than 12 thousand kilometers away, in Kenya, the lack of opportunities to participate in  economic activities, such as agriculture, is a challenge that women must face every day. Paired Mursi, a farmer working in banana tissue cultivation at the Sireet OEP Cooperative, says that it is only recently that it has become seen as acceptable for women to work on farms, because they should be taking care of their families. However, societal changes that have been pushed forward by pioneering women like Esperanza, have meant that women are now increasingly able to participate in agricultural activities. This has included many women beginning to own their own farms and managing their own businesses. To support her in developing her independent business, Paired has attended training at the Center of Excellence in Microenterprise Development in Sireet. These training sessions have given her the necessary skills to manage her farm as a small business. Thanks to this, Paired not only generates income for her family but also, thanks to her efforts to diversify, she can now ensure that they have a top level of nutrition by consuming the good quality products that she herself produces.

We know that the cases of Esperanza and Paired are not isolated. We know that there are many women around the world fighting for greater equity in rural agriculture. We would like to recognize and thank them for all their hard work on International Women’s Day!

Where is the Money in Small scale Farming?

This interview was originally posted by our Head of Programmes, Sylvia Ng’eno on her personal blog

We know there are 500 million small scale farmers worldwide and 2 billion people depend on them for their livelihoods. Growing up in a small-scale farming community in rural Kenya, the perception was one of farming for food more than farming to earn. Money came from either cash crops (tea and maize mainly) and formal office employment. It was clear that education was supposed to train you to find a job away or out of farming and farming and/or agriculture was never a career to aspire to. With this mindset, farming and/or agriculture became a last resort as a means of livelihood, the attitude towards farming and money still needs to be switched among the youth.  Farming has not been, a first exciting aspiring career choice as it does not seem well paying or even have a ‘competitive salary’ or an attractive return on investment.

You then wonder if the agribusiness movement and more focus on youth in agriculture has improved or changed these perceptions, below are responses from Agaba Kenneth, one of Producers Direct’s Uganda based youth leaders about his farming community in Kayonza, Kanungu District:


Is profits or money the motivation to farm in your community?

We have two types of farmers in my community food crop farmers who farm to get food for their homes and little for sale. Then we have a few cash crop (tea) farmers who farm to get money, pay school fees and little is left to buy food. The key motivations to farm are:

  1. Feeding families and communities: the biggest population here farm to feed their families and communities with variety of food little is produced for sale
  2. Culture and passion: others farm simply because it is what their culture requires and are sometimes passionate about farming
  3. Farming inventions, innovations and research also makes farmers farm and this is done by few and rich farmers and research institutions
  4. Environmental conservation: By farming, some farmers aim at protecting the environment, for example fish farming in swamps as a conservation method.

Do you think being a cash crop farmer is a lucrative agribusiness?

Being a cash crop farmer is only lucrative to rich farmers because, it requires large land sizes and a lot of capital and in most cases involves both labour- and capital-intensive techniques of production, and there are very few such farmer in my community.Smallholder farmers who deal in tea only looks to it as the source of a consistent monthly income and do not get enough money to diversify to other income sources, this makes them poor amidst their engagement in cash crop farming. Most of the cash crop income is used to buy food and little is left for other needs.According to me, farmers should also invest in food crops by starting small getting inspired and educated in that farm micro enterprise and then, look for advanced methods to make money consistently, for example, contract farming, as cash crop farming is only lucrative with large land sizes and advanced use of technology which small-scale farmers cannot afford.

Are youth into cash crop (coffee/tea) farming than other farming activities?

I am a member of youth platform that has registered only 24 youth in coffee and tea farming and most of them either inherited the cash crop from their fathers or bought land with cash crops from farmers who were moving to other parts of Uganda. The rest of the youth on the platform, 376 in total, are into other farm micro enterprises; horticulture, livestock and apiary farming. I have seen the development of a generation of innovative farms and farming techniques that shifts the farming perspective to putting money in the pockets first and food on tables. Agriculture now requires investments in research, knowledge exchange and partnerships to get a good return on investment. This is a different farming generation that has patience and passion acquired through trainings, record keeping, research and learning.

Celebrating World Radio Day

Leer en Español abajo.

Radio is a powerful means of communication that allows you to celebrate diversity. It is a democratic platform that allows everyone to have their say. Worldwide, radio remains the most consumed means of communication. This unique ability of the radio to reach a wide audience allows for myriad opinions to be expressed, represented and heard. Radio stations around the world serve different communities, offering diverse content and views, thus reflecting the diversity of their audiences.

In 2011, UNESCO proclaimed February 13 as World Radio Day and at Producers Direct we are taking this opportunity to highlight the excellent work that our partner cooperatives do using the unique opportunities that radio provides.

In Peru, for example, for cooperatives, radio is the most effective way to communicate with producers: it is direct, fast and reaches all, or the vast majority of farms. Thus, cooperatives, through their education committees together with youth groups and technical teams have found radio to be a powerful tool to encourage producers to implement practices on their farms, as well as to share knowledge and experiences first hand.

Great examples of this can be found at two of our partners: Huadquiña in Cusco; and Chirinos in Jaén. The radio studios that these cooperatives manage, have allocated sections so that young people – often the sons and daughters of members – and the members themselves have a space to share their experiences and knowledge gained at the Centers of Excellence. In this way, the radio has become a key media for the transfer of information and knowledge from producer to producer, as well as encouraging the participation of producers in the workshops of the cooperative for the adoption of practices that improve their production and quality of life.

Radio amongst our East Africa network is arguably even more important. Surveys carried out by Producers Direct have shown that around 50% of farmers value it as the best source of information. As smartphone uptake is still slow in many rural regions, radio can uniquely reach a large audience across largely unconnected rural areas.

For that reason RSTGA, our largest Centre of Excellence – in terms of size and membership, set up its own radio station (Radio Chai FM) in 2015. Chai FM has a huge listener base of 500,000 people crossing a vast region in Tanzania. As well as offering training on agricultural techniques, entrepreneurship and business skills, Chai FM has worked on promoting a variety of awareness programmes (e.g. on HIV/AIDs, gender). It also worked to facilitate the engagement of youth in agricultural production and agribusinesses in the region. This is very important to a rural community looking to encourage youth people to get involved and contribute to the rural economy.

RSTGA CEO and Producers Direct Chairman, Lebi Hudson said:

“Through special offers and business advertisements, we have used Chai FM to  attract more youth to engage themselves into agribusiness hence contribute into reduction of the unemployment problem.”

Technology is certainly beginning to move on, and many see that radio is becoming an increasingly outmoded form of technology. However, while young people are still picking up microphones and share experiences with communities that otherwise lack many modern communications devices, we still see it is a vitally important piece of technology that we hope will continue to support farmers to improve their livelihoods for years to come.


La radio es un medio de comunicación potente que permite celebrar la diversidad. Es una plataforma democrática en la cual todos pueden dar su discurso. A nivel mundial, la radio sigue siendo el medio de comunicación más consumido. Esta capacidad única que tiene la radio para llegar a una audiencia amplia significa que esta puede ser un escenario para que todas las voces de expresen, sean representadas y oídas. Las estaciones de radio deben servir a diferentes comunidades, ofreciendo contenido y puntos de vista diversos, reflejando así la diversidad de sus audiencias.

En el 2011 la UNESCO proclamó el 13 de febrero como el Día Mundial de la Radio y desde Producers Direct aprovechamos la oportunidad para resaltar el excelente trabajo que nuestras cooperativas socias realizan utilizando la radio como aliada.

En Perú, por ejemplo, para las cooperativas la radio es el medio más eficaz para comunicarse con los productores(as): es directo, rápido y llega a todas, o a la gran mayoría de fincas. Es así que las cooperativas, a través de sus comités de educación junto con los grupos de jóvenes y equipos técnicos han encontrado en ella una herramienta potente para incentivar la implementación de prácticas en las fincas de los productores, compartiendo conocimientos y experiencias de primera mano.

Este ha sido el caso de la C.A.C. Huadquiña en Cusco y la C.A.C. La Prosperidad de Chirinos en Jaén, quienes a partir de los espacios de radio que la misma cooperativa gestiona, han destinado secciones para que los jóvenes, hijos e hijas de socios/as, y los mismos socios y socias tengan un espacio para compartir con sus pares lo experimentado y aprendido en los Centros de Excelencia. De este modo, la radio se convirtió en una aliada para la transferencia de información y conocimientos de productor a productor, así como incentivar la participación de los productores/as en los talleres de la cooperativa para la adopción de prácticas que mejoren su producción y calidad de vida.

La radio en nuestra red de África Oriental es incluso más importante. Las encuesta realizadas por Producers Direct han mostrado que alrededor del 50% de los agricultores lo valoran como la mejor fuente de información. Como el uso de teléfonos inteligentes sigue siendo lento en muchas regiones rurales, únicamente la radio puede alcanzar una gran audiencia en áreas rurales mayoritariamente desconectadas.

Por esa razón, RSTGA, nuestro mayor Centro de Excelencia, en cuanto a términos de tamaño y membresía, estableció su propia estación de radio (Radio Chai FM) en 2015. Chai FM tiene una enorme base de oyentes de 500,000 personas que atraviesan una gran región en Tanzania. Además de ofrecer capacitación en técnicas agrícolas, emprendimiento y habilidades comerciales, Chai FM ha trabajado en la promoción de una variedad de programas de sensibilización (por ejemplo, sobre VIH / SIDA, género). También se encargó de facilitar la participación de los jóvenes en la producción agrícola y los agronegocios en la región. Esto es muy importante para una comunidad rural que busca alentar a los jóvenes a involucrarse y contribuir con la economía rural.

El director de RSTGA y presidente de Producers Direct, Lebi Hudson, dijo:

“A través de ofertas especiales y anuncios comerciales hemos utilizado Chai FM para atraer a más jóvenes a participar en los agronegocios y, por lo tanto, contribuir en la reducción del problema del desempleo.”

Ciertamente la tecnología está comenzando a avanzar, y muchos ven que la radio se está convirtiendo en una forma de tecnología cada vez más anticuada. Sin embargo, mientras los jóvenes todavía están tomando micrófonos y comparten experiencias con comunidades que de otra manera carecería de muchos dispositivos de comunicación modernos, todavía vemos que es una pieza de tecnología de vital importancia que esperamos continúe apoyando a los agricultores para mejorar sus medios de vida en los próximos años.

Aniversario Chirinos

¡Felicidades! Este 28 de febrero nuestra cooperativa socia La Prosperidad de Chirinos cumple 52 años desde su creación. 

Con más de 700 miembros, la Cooperativa Agraria Cafetalera La Prosperidad de Chirinos desempeña un rol dinamizador de la economía de Jaén y de la región Cajamarca. Gracias a las características geográficas y climáticas de la zona, así como el esfuerzo de sus miembros, el café producido por los agricultores y agricultoras de la cooperativa es de gran calidad, habiendo logrado presencia en el mercado nacional e internacional. Este 28 de febrero La Prosperidad de Chirinos celebra 52 años desde su creación, y queremos felicitar a todos y todas sus miembros.

También queremos agradecerles por dejarnos ser parte de sus logros y trabajar de cerca a través del Centro de Excelencia en Calidad de Café. Hace algunos años elegimos a la CAC La Prosperidad de Chirinos como los socios idóneos para el desarrollo de este Centro de Excelencia, no solo por la gran calidad de su café, también por el gran empeño de sus miembros en las tareas que realizan. Hoy en día, hemos co-desarrollado 7 sitios demostrativos en los cuales agricultores y agricultoras de otras zonas pueden aprender técnicas para mejorar la calidad de su café. Los programas en el Centro de Excelencia en Calidad de Café son brindados por productores(as) para productores(as), dándoles la oportunidad de conversar sobre soluciones a problemas que ellos y ellas mismas enfrentan. Algunos de los temas tratados son manejo de plagas, rehabilitación de terrenos, manejo de microorganismos, cosecha de agua y riego por goteo, técnicas de cosecha y postcosecha, entre otros. 

Esperamos poder seguir trabajando de la mano con la CAC Chirinos por muchos años más y les deseamos muchos éxitos en todos los proyectos que emprendan en este nuevo año. 

Congratulations! This February 28, our cooperative partner La Prosperidad de Chirinos turns 52!

With more than 700 members, the Cooperativa Agraria Cafetalera La Prosperidad de Chirinos plays a dynamic role in the economy of Jaén and the Cajamarca region in Northern Peru. Thanks to the geographical and climatic characteristics of the area, as well as the efforts of its members, the coffee produced by the cooperative’s farmers is of high quality, having achieved a presence in the national and international market. This February 28, Chirinos celebrates 52 years since its creation, and we want to congratulate all its members.

sdr

We also want to thank you for letting us be part of your achievements and working closely through the Center for Excellence in Coffee Quality.  We chose Chirinos as the ideal location for the development of this Center of Excellence, not only because of the high quality of its coffee, but also because of the great commitment of its members. Today, we have co-developed 7 demonstration sites at which farmers from across Peru can learn techniques to improve the quality of their coffee. The services at the Center for Excellence in Coffee Quality are provided by farmers for farmers, giving them the opportunity to discuss solutions to problems that they themselves face. For example demonstration sites have been set up around topics such as: pest management, land rehabilitation, microorganism management, water harvesting and drip irrigation, harvest and post-harvest techniques, among many others.

We look forward to continuing to work hand in hand with the Chirinos for many more years and wish them many successes in all the projects they undertake this year.

WE’RE HIRING: Lead Grant Writer (Part Time)

Job Description

Producers Direct is an award winning organisation led by farmers, for farmers. We operate globally with offices in London, Nairobi, and Lima. We are seeking a Grant Writer to support fundraising initiatives globally.

Job Title: Lead Grant Writer (Part Time)

Reports to: CEO

Contract: 12-month, part-time (2-3 days per week) fixed term employment contract, pending the completion of a successful probationary review period. Potential to extend the contract beyond the initial 12-months.

Location: London, UK (flexible work options, remote working available)

Goal: Providing senior-level grant writing maternity cover for Producers Direct (with potential to extend beyond 12-months). We are looking for someone to work directly with our CEO and global programme and fundraising teams to write winning grant proposals. We are also hoping this person can drive lead generation, propose additional funding opportunities and potentially support in line management of our fundraising team.

We are looking for someone:
Who has significant experience in the charity fundraising sector writing winning technical grant proposals, working with key institutional and government donors and identifying partnerships and funding leads.
Who has the confidence, creativity and leadership to distill complex concepts and models to develop and write proposals for not yet defined or distinct projects – creating unique content. Prior experience in project design and project leadership beneficial.
Who has excellent time management skills, and is able to work with limited support. We need someone who is confident to hit the ground running with limited oversight.
Knowledge and/or experience fundraising for agriculture, ICT4Ag/Tech, youth engagement, or value chain projects in Africa/Latin America would be beneficial.
Who is committed to Producers Direct’s model and approach to empowering smallholder farmers.

Key tasks include:
Work directly with the CEO and Programme Team (in Africa / Latin America) to lead in writing high quality grant proposals for major institutional and bilateral donors (DFID, USAID, World Bank, Innovate UK, Gates Foundation).
Lead management of proposal application process – oftentimes with multi-stakeholder consortiums.
Work directly with partners from the public, private and tech/startup sector to develop high quality, innovative and winning bids.
Identify funding leads to support work in East Africa & Latin America.

Potential Additional Opportunities:
Line management of fundraising team members.
Attending sector and networking events (fundraising, ICT4Ag, Innovation, Agriculture, Value Chain, Youth engagement) in London with potential to travel.
Programme design and development with Strategy and Programme Team.
Supporting donor management and reporting processes.
Consortium and partnership management.

Qualities/Qualifications:
5+ years’ experience writing high quality grant proposals in the charity sector with demonstrated high success rate for large, multi-year proposals.
Prior programme design / leadership experience with ability to distill complex models and ideas to write proposals.
Experience writing for key institutional and/or government / bilateral donors (i.e. DFID, USAID, World Bank, Comic Relief, Innovate UK).
Experience working across cultures. Knowledge or experience writing for the agriculture and/or ICT4Ag/tech sector preferred.
Excellent writing skills and ability to hit the ground running.
Thrives working in a small team/startup environment. Creative, out-of-the-box thinking.
Comfortable working independently with limited support.
Self-starter, confident, flexible and able to work to tight deadlines.
Undergraduate degree and/or relevant related experience leading grant writing and/or fundraising teams (prospecting, proposal writing, grant writing).
Compensation details

What we can offer:
Initial 12-month, part-time, fixed term contract, pending the completion of a successful 3-month probationary review period, with scope for longer-term contract extension.
Flexible working hours, part-time work, remote working available.
Salary range: £40-55k per annum pro rata, with salary commensurate with experience.

If this sounds like you:
Please send your CV, and a cover letter showcasing success in grant writing high quality proposals for major donors (1-page) to: info@producersdirect.org.

In your cover letter please include one paragraph addressing how you would set Producers Direct apart from the crowd when approaching a donor?

Application Deadline: Close of business on 14 February 2020.

Please note: Only shortlisted applicants will be contacted.

‘Youth in agribusiness’ Convention: December 2019

Written by Valerie Anemba

Young people around the world play a critical role in the future of agriculture. According to the FAO, 60% of the global population depend on agriculture for survival. However, the average age of farmers in the world is currently around 60 years old. At Producers Direct, we aim to encourage and support youth networks from across our Centre of Excellence (CoE) to be involved in agribusiness activities. This can help to change young people’s negative perception of farming, whilst also motivating them to become young entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector. In this regard, the CoE youth network at Kayonza in collaboration with Producers Direct, organized a ‘youth in agribusiness’ convention. With an overall objective of motivating youth into joining agribusiness for sustainable development, the convention sought to reinforce the participation of young women and men at the local level to become meaningful actors of agricultural transformation.

The convention was a 7-day event in south-western Uganda that brought together 25 youths from across East Africa. The event commenced with an inspirational forum at Kayonza and afterwards they travelled to Bushenyi district for farm and factory tours, finally travelling back to Kayonza for a regional policy forum. The youth participated in various activities, including a farmer-led training on farm diversification innovations and space utilizations. Through these training sessions, the participants were shown how they could grow diverse crops and enterprises on small acres of land. They visited organizations such as NIFADEC (Ntungamo Intergrated Farm and Diversification Centre) which is a family-owned farm that inspires farmers to diversify in different enterprises, especially, the adoption of coffee farm management and planning.

 

Additionally, they toured the ACPCU factory where they learnt about the coffee value chain, coffee-cupping and the involvement of youth and women in coffee farming. Furthermore, they went for a farm visit to an ACPCU promoter farmer’s farm, where they participated in a practical training regarding climate-smart agribusiness such as using biogas as a renewable source of green energy and as a high-quality organic fertilizer as well as using the bio-slurry as manure, which is much more beneficial than ordinary manure, as its odorless and pest-repellent. The youth learnt that through climate-smart farming they can attain greater yields using less farm space and money.

The event concluded with a regional policy convention that was attended by community leaders and highlighted the overview of the status quo of youth engagement in agribusiness, at Kanungu district. The youths also shared their success stories as young farmers and launched an agribusiness campaign dubbed “putting food on the table and money in the pocket”. 

In conclusion, the ‘youth in agribusiness’ convention was very successful in achieving its objective of encouraging youth involvement in agribusiness. Their exposure to diverse innovative agricultural enterprises, crop-diversification, and climate-smart agribusiness, has helped to inspire them to discover ways that they can play key roles in sustaining and modernizing the agricultural sector. The convention has given these young agripreneurs the impetus to interact and encourage other youths in their own communities to change their perception about farming. They can now share their own success stories and prove that agribusiness is a great source of income and employment among young people. As stated by Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the 2017 World Food Prize laureate, ‘the future of African youths lies in agriculture’.

Jóvenes en la agricultura peruana: la pieza clave para el desarrollo sostenible del sector. 

Jóvenes en la agricultura peruana: la pieza clave para el desarrollo sostenible del sector. 

(For the version in English please see below)

Escrito por Talia Lostaunau 

Rosario se acerca sin apuro a la mesa cubierta por pequeños bowls con café molido. Se detiene unos segundos sobre cada muestra, absorbiendo su aroma. Echa agua caliente sobre cada una y una mezcla de deliciosos olores invade el laboratorio de catación. Rosario coge dos cucharas y extrae una pequeña capa superficial del líquido. Lleva el café concentrado hacia su boca. Lo saborea.“Este es nuestro café,” dice, mostrando total seguridad en su rostro. “Lo puedo reconocer por su sabor y aroma acaramelado.” Todos en la sala quedan impresionados y, tras unos segundos, confirman que la muestra pertenece a la cooperativa Huadquiña, a la cual Rosario representa. 

Rosario Salas trabaja como Q grader en la cooperativa Huadquiña, en Cusco. Ella es encargada de que los estándares de calidad del café que exporta la cooperativa sean los requeridos por sus compradores a nivel internacional. A pesar de que Rosario realmente disfruta su trabajo, sabe que es una de las pocas jóvenes que han decidido mantenerse en el rubro agrícola. Muchos de los jóvenes que nacieron en zonas rurales, hijos de pequeños productores, no ven la actividad agrícola como rentable y deciden migrar hacia las ciudades en búsqueda de oportunidades laborales que muchas veces son difíciles de encontrar. 

Las cifras son claras. De acuerdo al Censo Nacional de Población 2017, más del 51% de los peruanos tiene menos de 30 años, sin embargo, tan solo el 12% de los agricultores en el país tiene menos de 30 años (de acuerdo al último Censo Nacional Agropecuario, 2012). El futuro de la actividad agrícola está en riesgo, así como el futuro de los jóvenes, quienes enfrentan situaciones de subempleo y desempleo.

En mayo de 2019, Producers Direct llevó a cabo su reunión anual en Pangoa, a la cual asistieron representantes de 6 de las 9 cooperativas cafetaleras que conforman su red. En dicha reunión se exploró los problemas a los que se enfrentan las cooperativas, identificando como uno de los más urgentes la falta de involucramiento de los jóvenes. El equipo de Producers Direct decidió que era de suma importancia seguir trabajando con los jóvenes en Perú. Para ello, ha decidido integrar a su modelo basado en Centros de Excelencia las innovadoras herramientas digitales que han venido piloteando durante el último año en África. Estas herramientas permiten que los pequeños productores ingresen data sobre su productividad en diferentes cultivos, la cual más tarde será accesible para que ellos mismos puedan tomar decisiones basadas en información. Los jóvenes juegan un rol clave en el uso y difusión de las herramientas, dándoles la oportunidad de tener un empleo formal y motivador. 

Las herramientas digitales integradas a los Centros de Excelencia son solo un camino para lograr el involucramiento los jóvenes. El caso de Rosario fue diferente, pero también muy interesante. Ella estudió Industrias Alimentarias en la Universidad Nacional Agraria de la Selva y, tras terminar la carrera, decidió volver a su comunidad, pues la cooperativa Huadquiña le ofreció un empleo formal y la posibilidad de seguir capacitándose para crecer profesionalmente. Rosario ni siquiera lo tenía entre sus metas antes y, ahora, es una Q grader certificada. “Estoy feliz de que la cooperativa Huadquiña me haya dado la oportunidad de trabajar y ahora estoy contribuyendo al desarrollo de mi comunidad en Santa Teresa, Cusco,” cuenta Rosario.

Si quieres conocer más sobre el trabajo de Rosario, puedes ver este video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrSkufYL1og


ENG

Young people in Peruvian agriculture: the key piece for the sustainable development of the sector.

Written by Talia Lostaunau 

Rosario walks casually over to the table covered by small bowls with ground coffee. She stops a few seconds on each sample, absorbing its aroma. She pours hot water on each and a mixture of delicious smells fill the laboratory. Rosario takes two spoons and removes a small surface layer of the liquid, brings the concentrated coffee to her mouth and tastes it. “This is our coffee,” she says, completely confident in her claim. “I can recognize it for its sweet flavor and aroma.” Everyone in the room is impressed and, after a few seconds, they confirm that the sample belongs to the Huadquiña cooperative, which Rosario represents.

Rosario Salas works as a Q grader at the Huadquiña cooperative in Cusco. She is responsible for ensuring that the quality standards of the coffee exported by the cooperative match those required by its international buyers. Although Rosario really enjoys her job, she knows that she is one of the few young people who have decided to stay in the agricultural sector. Many of the young people who were born in rural areas, children of smallholder farmers, do not see agricultural activity as profitable and decide to migrate to cities in search of job opportunities that are often difficult to find.

The figures are clear. According to the 2017 National Population Census, more than 51% of Peruvians are under 30 years old, however, only 12% of farmers in the country are under 30 years old (according to the last National Agricultural Census, 2012). The future of agricultural activity is at risk, as is the future of young people, who face under- and unemployment.

In May 2019, Producers Direct held its annual meeting in Pangoa, which was attended by representatives of 6 of the 9 coffee cooperatives that make up its network. At that meeting, the problems faced by cooperatives were explored, identifying as one of the most urgent the lack of involvement of young people. The Producers Direct team decided that it was very important to continue working with young people in Peru. To this end, it has decided to integrate the innovative digital tools that have been piloted in Africa over the past year. These tools allow small producers to enter data on their productivity in different crops, which will later be aggregated and made accessible so that they themselves can make decisions based on the information. Young people play a key role in the use and dissemination of tools, giving them the opportunity to have a formal and motivating job.

The digital tools integrated into the Centers of Excellence are only one way to get young people involved. Rosario’s case was different, but also very interesting. She studied Food Industries at the National Agrarian University of La Selva and, after finishing the degree, decided to return to her community, since the Huadquiña cooperative offered her a formal job and the possibility of continuing to train to grow professionally. Rosario didn’t even have it among her goals before and, now, she is a certified Q grader. “I am happy that the Huadquiña cooperative has given me the opportunity to work and now I am contributing to the development of my community in Santa Teresa, Cusco,” Rosario says.

If you want to know more about Rosario’s work, you can watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrSkufYL1og

How Producers Direct utilizes Human Centered Design

Written  by Brian Ngetich

Without a doubt mobile technologies are offering new opportunities aimed at addressing the most pressing social problems in emerging economies across the globe. However, the success of any innovative mobile solution depends on how a given market inside an emerging economy accounts for the specific economic, technical and human limitations. including: lack of internet or low internet speed, low financial liquidity, low technical and financial literacy levels and lastly lack of electricity. 

FarmDirect is one such innovative solution. As a service, FarmDirect is developed in such a way that it takes into consideration the contextual factors and is therefore well positioned to be successful. FarmDirect structures unstructured value chains, improves market linkages, tracks productivity and analyses profit and loss. Additionally, FarmDirect aggregates historical and real-time weather data enabling farmers to make better decisions, building resilience and improving crop quality. All of this done from the farm-level up and is supported by local youth networks in the product bundling, logistics and transportation of crops from the farmgate to buyers. 

A good user experience like the one provided by FarmDirect, is one of the most important success factors of mobile-based services and products. In order to ensure it is suitably adapted to the real-world aspirations and needs of the smallholder farmers, Producers Direct has been working to build in a Human-Centered Design (HCD) methodology as part of it’s farmer-led approach. HCD is an innovation process made up from multiple design methods which structurally include the product or service’s end-users into its conception, development, testing, maintenance and upgrade. For FarmDirect, the intense end-user involvement throughout  the development process sees to it that it will meet the real needs of the smallholder farmers while communicating their dreams and aspirations. 

For Producers Direct, the use of the HCD process makes sure that FarmDirect and all other farmer-led solutions both leverage and take into consideration the habits, working practices and capacities of smallholder farmers in order that these solutions can seamlessly fit into both their working and private lives. FarmDirect has been piloted in East Africa (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) and continues to be tested and iterated by all members of the farming community including women’s groups, youth groups and farming cooperatives. Further, FarmDirect is backed by a strong in-person, farmer-led model providing access to training, financing, markets, and data through our partner Centres of Excellence. Similarly, the digital services are supported by networks of young people and women through in-person training, market access and transport logistics, promoting sustainable, smallholder-inclusive value chains from the base of the pyramid. 

Apart from the use of HCD, the commercial success of FarmDirect as a mobile-based product targeting smallholder farmers in emerging economies is very much dependent on various factors including sensible pricing, effective communication (workshops and training), trust inspired by renowned global or local brands (Producers Direct and the Center of Excellence) and lastly, quality output in an actionable, accessible, timely and easily understood format (Real time easy to understand charts). Mostly, no single entity in the entire mobile value sector has the ability to bring together the different but important aspects. However, the success of FarmDirect is also attributed to its strong focus on value for the end-user and all the partners. Together with Producers Direct’s mission, this has led to the development of a business model which accounts for each actor in the smallholder farming ecosystem. 

In conclusion, FarmDirect as an example of an innovation in the m-based agriculture sector directs our attention to two important aspects aimed at generating societal and business value. The first is that it uses Human-Centered Design to maintain its farmer-led approach from design to launch to upgrade. The second is that it brings together partners around one central aspiration: the continued success of smallholder farmers. Therefore guaranteeing that the partnership improves the success of the entire agricultural sector. 

NAIROBI BASED INTERNSHIP: Software Developer

We are seeking someone to help us develop our digital tool, Farm Direct. Farm Direct is a system that supports farmers and producer organisations to gather and analyse on-farm business data and monitor performance, providing data visualisations via dashboards for farmers and producers organisations. This is a great opportunity to use your software development skills to help deliver vital information to smallholder farmers in a way that they can access, understand and interpret to make life changing decisions on their farms.

Job Title: Software Developer 

Reports to: Information Manager (UK-based) and User Centered Developer (Nairobi-based)

Contract: Initial 6-month fixed-term internship contract, pending the completion of a successful probationary review period

Location: Nairobi, Kenya

Goal: Work with the Information Manager and User Centered Developer to support in additional testing, coding and development of digital tools to deliver usable and actionable data to smallholder farmers. 

Key tasks include:

  • Support Information Manager and User Centered Developer in delivering the digital tools as part of Producer Direct’s data strategy 
  • Testing and coding as directed by User Centered Developer
  • Manual data input into the system 
  • Maintain and improve performance of existing software 
  • Other activities as requested by Producers Direct management 

What we can offer:

As a small charitable organisation, we don’t have huge resources. However, we can offer you: a dynamic, creative and rewarding working environment; office space in Nairobi’s Westlands District; Salary commensurate with experience; 6-month fixed term contract with potential for extension based on results; flexible PT or FT working options; hands on experience and responsibility from day one; the opportunity to travel and work with smallholder farmers in rural East Africa; and the chance to make a real impact in a small, but ambitious organisation!

We are looking for someone who is:

  • Familiar with Laravel Framework
  • Knowledgeable of working with Linux-based Virtual Machines
  • Experienced in SQL Design
  • Experienced in developing Charts JS
  • Knowledgeable of Android apps development using Xamarin, Ionic or React Native. 
  • Knowledge in using Git repository hosting service (Github and/or BitBucket)
  • Eager and ready to play a key role in delivering an impactful data system for farmers
  • Passionate about our model and approach to supporting and empowering smallholder farmers 
  • Willing to try new things and take the unconventional (even non technical / digital) approach to solving problems
  • Creative and innovative, and excited about working with a small, passionate, diverse & creative team 

Qualities/Qualifications:

  • Flexible approach to problem-solving that may include using low / non tech solutions
  • Excellent interpersonal & communication skills (written/verbal)
  • Comfortable working in a small team/startup environment
  • Comfortable working across multiple cultures and languages 
  • Self-starter, flexible and able to work on tight deadlines
  • Undergraduate degree OR relevant related experience in software development / data analysis / product design

Desirable

  • Experience in working in a rural setting with farmers or low IT literacy populations
  • Experience working for social enterprise / NGO / charitable organisation

 

If this sounds like you: 

Please send your CV, and a cover letter (1-page) to: info@producersdirect.org

In your cover letter, please include one paragraph addressing the following question: What’s the most important thing to look for, or check when reviewing another team member’s code?

 

Application Deadline: 23rd August 2019

Please note: Only shortlisted applicants will be contacted.

 

Rural youth in East Africa awarded share of $1million prize to develop and scale up youth-owned agri-enterprise

OpenIDEO and the GHR Foundation announced Producers Direct as one of 5 winners of the 2018 BridgeBuilder Challenge. 675+ ideas were initially submitted to address urgent global challenges in radically new ways. As one of the 5 winners, Producers Direct was awarded $256,575 in seed funding to launch YouthDirect, a youth-led agricultural enterprise.

The future of food is at risk, as is our planet. By 2050 our population will reach 10bn. Food production will need to increase by 70% to match this growth, placing significant strain on limited resources. 500m smallholders are responsible for producing 70% of the world’s food supply, but they are ageing, with the worldwide average over 60 years. With growing populations, we are also seeing increasing youth unemployment. In the next decade, 1 billion youth will enter the job market. 600 million of them will not find jobs.

YouthDirect solves these growing global threats. It offers young people an exciting opportunity to lead a pioneering youth-led agri-enterprise, driving sustainable food production in Africa. Nairobi-based Sylvia Ng’eno, Producers Direct’s Head of Programmes said, “We are living in an era of Peak Youth – with more young people on the planet than ever before. This provides us with an exciting opportunity to empower youth to solve the world’s greatest threats.”

Over the next 24 months, Producers Direct will utilise seed funding to launch a youth-owned food brand: YouthDirect, transforming food production and food value chains from the ground up. YouthDirect will empower the next generation of agripreneurs. It will initially work with a group of 5,000 youth and local farming cooperatives to promote inclusion in global food systems, providing a viable – and sustainable – livelihood for young people, while safeguarding the future of food and planet.

“Together, we will provide exciting and meaningful opportunities for youth” said Producers Direct’s Youth Coordinator Gilbert Misoi “we are working with youth to innovate and share new ideas with their peers. This has been such an amazing opportunity and we are very excited to link up with youth from across East Africa and build on our successes.”

The BridgeBuilder Challenge, led by GHR Foundation in partnership with OpenIDEO, was designed to use open innovation to identify and strengthen solutions to urgent global challenges at the intersection of peace, prosperity and planet. Learn more about the BridgeBuilder Challenge here: http://www.ghrfoundation.org/producers-direct.html 

JOB: User-Centered Developer

We are seeking an enthusiastic User-Centered Developer to work with our award winning NGO supporting smallholder farmers in East Africa and Latin America to access, understand and interpret data to make life changing decisions on their farms.

We are seeking an enthusiastic User-Centered Developer to work with our award winning NGO. Producers Direct works with 600,000 farmers in East Africa and Latin America and is led by farmers, for farmers. By co-investing with this network, Producers Direct is creating lasting and vital impact with the farmers who grow 70% of the world’s food.

The Role

You will work with  our small, but dedicated, team across UK, Kenya and Peru, and be based in either our London or Nairobi office. You will deliver a user centered design approach to develop a platform (incl. analogue and digital components – such as paper logbook, apps and dashboards) that integrates analogue and digital data collection, and provides usable and actionable data insights for smallholder farmers. This is a great opportunity to use your UX and software development skills to support farmers to access, understand and interpret data to make life changing decisions on their farms; making a real impact on farmers’ lives.

Key tasks include:

  • Create a strategy for delivering a participatory, user-design process with farmers and Producer Organisations (farming cooperatives)
  • Co-deliver workshops with our programmes team for farmers and youth in rural settings in East Africa and Latin America
  • Develop relevant tools (platform / app /dashboard – see above) necessary to collect and/or process analogue data and deliver insights to farmers
  • Carry out iterative development process with smallholders and youth on the tool in response to farmers’ feedback and needs
  • Integrate data output from partner organisations into the tool
  • Integrate on-farm data into Producers Direct’s impact dashboard
  • Other activities as requested by Producers Direct leadership

What we can offer:

As a small charitable organisation, we don’t have huge resources. However, we can offer you: a dynamic, creative and rewarding working environment; Salary commensurate with experience; 6-month fixed term contract with potential for extension based on results; flexible PT or FT working options; hands on experience and responsibility from day one; the opportunity to travel and work with smallholder farmers in rural East Africa and Latin America; and the chance to make a real impact in a small, but ambitious organisation!

Essential requirements:

  • Demonstrated knowledge of relevant programming tools used for app / software development as appropriate
  • Experience of working with software such as Tableau, Google Drive, WordPress
  • Experience in creating and delivering UX and human / user centred design processes – ideally in an international context
  • Flexible approach to problem-solving that may include using low / non tech solutions and willingness to work with limited resources
  • Comfortable working in a small team environment across multiple cultures and languages
  • Willingness to make most of opportunity to travel often to rural areas of East Africa  for 2 or 3 weeks at a time
  • Eligible to work and reside in the UK or Kenya – unfortunately we are not in the position to support visa applications

 

 

We are looking for someone who is:

  • Eager and ready to play a key role in co-designing and delivering an impactful data system for farmers
  • Passionate about our model and approach to supporting and empowering smallholder farmers
  • Capable of managing app development and data management, but willing to try new things and take the unconventional (often non digital) approach to solving problems
  • Creative and innovative, and excited about working with a small, passionate, diverse & creative team

Nice to haves

  • Conversational Spanish and/or Swahili
  • Experience in working in rural setting with farmers or low IT literacy populations
  • Experience working for social enterprise / NGO / charitable organisation
  • Knowledge / understanding of the European Union’s new General Data Protec
  • tion Regulation (GDPR)

Additional Application Instructions

If this sounds like you: Please send your CV, and a cover letter (1-page) to: info@producersdirect.org 

In your cover letter, please include one paragraph addressing the following question: How would you work with farmers in isolated, unconnected rural settings to co-design tools that can help analyse on-farm data and make decisions based on the analysis.

Application Deadline: 28th September 2018 Please note: Only shortlisted applicants will be contacted

 

Kayonza

Although many agree that the stakes are higher than ever, political wrangling over how to approach climate change seems to continue unabated.

Despite this, smallholder and indigenous communities across the world are responding robustly. Using their expert knowledge of the land, these communities have quietly been developing a range of innovative approaches that not only help mitigate the effects of climate change but also conserve some of the world’s most important environmental resources.

Kayona Growers Tea Factory Ltd

The smallholder farmers that make up Kayonza Growers Tea Factory Ltd are spread across the perimeter of Ugandas Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the forest is one of the oldest, richest ecosystems in Africa and holds half the world’s population of the critically endangered mountain gorillas. Unfortunately, however, as over 90% of community members are dependent on locally-sourced wood for energy, deforestation rates are high. Also, as the effects of climate change have seen increased temperatures, altered rain patterns, and extended droughts, the farmers in this rich, beautiful landscape have faced numerous challenges to their livelihoods. This means that farmers, that have hitherto relied on tea as their main source of income, are now faced with a growing frequency of crop failures. Combining this with a variety of other factors, such as price volatility, has led to a situation where at least 70% of a resource rich region lives on less than $2 a day.

 

Equator Initiative Prize

These efforts have now been rewarded with Kayonza being awarded the Equator Prize. Announced in September 2015 by UN officials and Academy Award-nominated actor and activist Alec Baldwin, this prestigious honor is bestowed on a range of indigenous community-based efforts to reduce poverty, protect nature and strengthen resilience in the face of climate change. Being awarded the prize comes with $10,000 USD prize and was celebrated at an event in Paris.

 

Name: Kayonza Growers Tea Factory Ltd.
 Country: Uganda
 Number of farmers: 7,200
 Number of trees planted: 20,000
 Household Incomes: +20%

Farmer-led Climate Adaptation

The journey to winning the Equator prize began in 2010 when Kayonza, working in partnership with Producers Direct  and CIAT, began programmes aimed at tackling a broad range of issues required for their communities to adapt to climate-related stresses. Operating within a landscape where livelihoods, agriculture and biodiversity conservation are all high priorities is no easy task. However, by using an inclusive, holistic and community-led approach they have been able to simultaneously combat the financial concerns of the community and confront local drivers of climate change.

From the outset of the programme, farmers took leadership by identifying challenges they were facing, assessing the extent to which these were related to changing climatic conditions, and identifying their own ideas and solutions for tackling them. Kayonza added existing data and climate modelling to this and developed these ideas into a strategic action plan. The resulting activities were implemented through a farmer-led training model where farmers and other community leaders were nominated to be trained as trainers. These trainers held responsibility for organising and running training and other implementation activities with their peers.

Success

The results of this strategy have been incredibly impressive, with over 4,800 households already benefitting from the strategy. Upwards of 4,000 farmers, across 52 high value ecoregions, have been trained in conserving wetlands, riverbanks and natural forests. Through this and the installation of rainwater harvesting and gravity flow water systems there has been a dramatically improved access to clean water for Kayonza’s farming communities. To combat deforestation, over 20,000 indigenous trees have been re-planted across farm borders and degraded hillsides. Added to this, low energy stoves and other efficiency measures have led to a reduction in local fuel wood consumption. These measures have been scaled-out across households, and as well as cutting down on the use of locally sourced firewood have reduced smoke inhalation and time spent by women collecting the fuel.

Kayonza has encouraged their farmers to pick and deliver quality tea to the factory. This has translated into much higher market prices for their tea when compared to other tea factories in Uganda. Direct household incomes have also increased due to the development of kitchen gardens. These have been particularly effective and have resulted in income increases of up to 20%, derived from selling surplus vegetables and herbs to local markets. These kitchen gardens and on-farm fruit trees have also heralded drastic improvements to family nutrition, through the diverse range of nutritionally rich fruits, vegetables and herbs made readily available.

Combined, these benefits are enhancing community resilience and the ability of farmers to respond in the event that their tea crop fails due to extreme weather or pests. Deservedly, Kayonzas achievements have been widely recognised both in Uganda and internationally. With the support of Producers Direct other tea factories in the region have been able to send their farmers for exchange visits to learn a range of environmental techniques and how to encourage their farmers to pick quality tea and. Kayonza has been able to successfully demonstrate the business case for smallholders to take up this approach to climate change adaptation. Improved energy efficiency and enhanced volumes of tea production have seen tangible, income benefits for their members and it is hoped that these techniques can be rolled out to other organisations and cooperatives across the region.

 

Smallholder power

Kayonza is located in one of Uganda’s most biodiverse ecosystems. Significant pressures on wildlife and other natural resources have been driven by growing rural populations, dependent on farming for their livelihoods. However, Kayonza is a great example of how smallholder farmers can innovate to overcome the challenges they face. This is proof of the value of Producers Direct’s mission to empower and mobilise smallholders as key actors in delivering climate adaptation and mitigation strategies within their community. Globally, smallholders are recognised as one of the most effective ways to lift billions out of poverty and reduce hunger, but they are also the stewards of much of the world’s most precious environmental resources. While the rest of the world tos and fros about how best to tackle climate change, smallholder communities, such as those at Kayonza, are not waiting around to see their livelihoods and environment destroyed. Instead they are quietly taking the initiative to go about making positive change that will enable their communities to thrive within the natural limits of the planet.

 

Youth Exchange Program

Through our work with the Global Resilience Partnership (GRP) we have been working with our partners, Kijabe Environmental Volunteers, (KENVO) to facilitate an exchange programme among youths groups in Uganda and Kenya. This programme enables young farmers from different regions to: swap farming innovations, ideas and knowledge with one another; identify partnership opportunities, share stories and examples of the challenges they face; and collaborate on solutions.

The first step was to convene a “Local Youth Exchange Programme”. This was hosted at the Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Sireet and  brought together youth members from the local Nandi Hills region with visiting youths from Kijabe. The Sireet youths were able to interact with youths from Kijabe, who are also involved in farming activities. They shared various farming techniques, advice and knowledge with each other as well as the challenges they face as young farmers. It also also them to interact socially, to form connections and encourage each other to be successful as young farmers.

The Regional Youth Exchange was then held. This entailed youths from Sireet and Kijabe travelling to Uganda to visit Kayonza’ s CoE youth members. This again allowed them to share farming ideas, innovations, and challenges that they face, and find space to identify various farming partnership opportunities amongst themselves. The youths from Kenya were able to witness a wide variety of youth farm enterprises, including the youth-led CoE demonstration-sites.  As well as learning about how Kayonza youths are farming fish and keeping poultry, the visitors were also shown how local specialities of banana and pineapple wine were being turned into products that are helping to diversify the incomes of these youth groups in Kayonza.

The Kenyan youths were very encouraged to see this, and spent a lot of their visit coming up with ideas on how they could create value addition for other crops back at home: coming up with plans for products such as banana crisps, and sweet potato flour. They were also excited to see the coffee academy which acts as a youth-led coffee farm training centre giving visitors insights into coffee growing practices such as weed control through mulching, coffee variety selection, the holing process and the coffee planting calendar.

During the visit, as the Kenyan and Ugandan youth groups exchanged their thoughts and insights, it became apparent that challenges such as lack of loan facilities, market linkages and climatic variations, were universal across all the regions. This enabled them to brainstorm a few ideas on how they might be able to address these challenges together. Out of this arose a plethora of ideas: such as developing a youth-group savings culture that would enable the youth-members to borrow and lend back money to members; a stakeholder forum that would enable youth groups to identify partnership opportunities and markets for their enterprises; and, lastly, a training needs assessment that would enable them to identify enterprises which they can share between them, and identify specific farming skills that are lacking or needed within the network.

In a context where young people are increasingly leaving the rural areas to travel to the city, finding ways in which to engage young people to stay involved in rural communities is vital.  This programme has already seen some great results and it is exciting to see the innovative ideas young people come up with. We will follow their progress closely to see what comes out of these exchanges.

DIGITAL FARM GOES TO PHILADELPHIA (NEXT STOP, THE WORLD!)

Digital Farm has well and truly become Producer Direct’s next exploration into the use of technology in smallholder communities. After successfully launching WeFarm and becoming the first charity to secure VC funding for a for-profit subsidiary, Producers Direct has seen how farmer-led tech can gain serious traction (at the time of writing WeFarm has over 250k users), and have a real impact on the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

Digital Farm: uses Internet of things  technology to provide smallholder farmers with accessible, affordable and applicable data. Although shrouded in its use of lots of jargon and techie speak, the concept behind Digital Farm is quite simple. By introducing simple sensors – the kind now commonly found in fitbits and self-watering plant pots– to regular farming tools, smallholders farmers can access real-time, accurate data. As well as directly enabling them to use data to respond to numerous challenges Digital Farm will empower these farmers to claim ownership over their own information.

Initial Exploration

With an initial grant from Nominet Trust, Digital Farm has been working with Nairobi based Intellisoft Plus out in the field to test prototypes, speak with farmers and devise solutions together. We pride ourselves on being farmer-led, not tech-led, meaning we are not seeking the newest or most innovative tech. Instead, we are working directly with farmers to identify their greatest challenges and develop and deliver solutions that they can work with.

By running numerous user-centred workshops and brainstorming sessions with farmers, it has become apparent that IOT is indeed a great opportunity to connect farmers to the data generated on their farms. Kits investigating soil moisture and rainfall data should help smallholders improve water management in the face of climate threats, and support them to diversify their farms. This in turn enables them to build their productivity leading to improved livelihoods for them and their communities.

There are plenty of tools out there already (Pycno, Sensoterra etc.) that achieve great results. These tools are well made, effective and have already demonstrated their usefulness in the market. However, many of these existing tools focus on commercial farmers with much more of a familiarity with using, and access to technology. They are also often priced at a point too high for small-scale farmers with a household income of ~$5 per day. Therefore, in order to ensure that these tools are truly accessible to smallholder farmers Digital Farm has, just like with WeFarm, set itself the challenge of addressing the problem of making the ‘internet of things’ accessible to farmers without access to the internet, limited technological capability and only a feature phone to rely on. This remains a design challenge for Digital Farm, but with our network of dedicated promoter farmers and youth agents we have made great strides in the initial stages of exploration.

Climate Ventures 2.0 – Philadelphia

After applying online, Digital Farm was selected as a “top idea” of a challenge run by OpenIdeo, in partnership with Good Company Ventures (GCV). This challenge sought out “new technologies to make agriculture and water systems more resilient in the face of climate threats” and offered Digital Farm the opportunity to attend a 12-week accelerator program in with GCV in Philadelphia.  

Housed at the trendy and vibrant Benjamin’s Desk co-working space, just around the corner from Independence Hall where the US constitution was signed, two Producers Direct team members have alternatively travelled to Philadelphia throughout June and July. Joining 9 other companies, they have been attending a programme set to help Digital Farm refine its idea, improve on its business model and further explore the design of the project.

It has certainly does this. The program has helped forced Digital Farm to think outside the NGO box and to explore it as a business idea with the potential to impact millions of smallholder farmers across the world. During weekly peer review sessions the team have been given the opportunity to put ideas to the test and engage in debate with people working on similar ideas. This has provided receive a lot of useful feedback, challenged assumptions and helped Digital Farm frame itself within the wider eco-system of products and services available.  

The course has effectively provided Digital Farm with a crash course on how to take a great idea into a winning business. Being the only NGO within the cohort of companies, it is fair to say Producers Direct occasionally stands out like a sore thumb. However, this has also meant the team have been able to hone their thinking and identify strengths, weaknesses and areas that needed further work in a space where innovation and technology is driving things forward rapidly. This has led to the realisation that, while the technology that Digital Farm is putting forward is not as advanced as some, our network of over 280,000 smallholder farmers and our farmer-led model is a huge selling point and demonstrates not only the ability to ensure uptake of the tools but also a route to scale.

What next?

As the programme comes to an end, the team can reflect on what has been learnt and how this thinking can be taken to inform the next steps for Digital Farm. It is clear that in a space crowded with highly talented technology entrepreneurs, Digital Farm’s unique farmer-led approach and strong existing network will be key to its development. By creating ways in which complex tools and technology can be accessed by smallholder farmers and remaining true to its farmer-led approach, Digital Farm will be able to empower smallholders to own and use data from their farms and build their livelihoods.

Digital Farm looks forward to more extensive piloting of the tools over the next few months – assessing ways to feed information back to farmers and ensure they are able to make valuable informed decisions.

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