Our network of youth agents connects us to farmers on the ground. They work closely with farmers by coordinating training sessions and visiting their farms to check progress and to help solve the challenges that farmers face.
Since 2022, our youth agents in Peru have been carrying out surveys with coffee farmers, training them on how to use our digital app Croppie. This PhotoCropping app allows smallholders to generate coffee yield predictions using smartphone pictures and AI, providing farmers with actionable agronomic advice on how best to adapt to these forecasts.
Youth agents are also a key part of our model, linking farmers to buyers through our digital tool FarmDirect. This way, farmers access markets for their produce and the services they need to grow their agriculture enterprises.
In this interview, we spoke to one of our youth agents in Peru to learn more about what she does, the farmers she works with, her experience so far and her personal goals for the future.
Introduce yourself and tell me what a typical day for you is like
My name is Yacory Ocaña and I am from Jaén city. I have been a youth agent for close to five months now, working specifically in Las Tirias de Jaén. My work as a youth agent at the moment is focussed on doing surveys with farmers and training them on using Croppie. Together with my fellow youth agents, we enable the farmers in our network to sell their produce by linking them to buyers on Farm Direct. We also visit farmers in their kitchen gardens to check on progress and find out from them what challenges they are experiencing then together we figure out how to solve these challenges.
What motivated you, as a young person, to want to be/ work in agriculture?
My parents are farmers and since my childhood I have seen them do agriculture on their own without getting any advice or training about agriculture. But nowadays, I see farmers getting all kinds of support and this is one of the reasons why I got motivated to work with farmers. I get motivated when farmers tell me things like ‘I had never sold a product from my organic kitchen garden. I didn’t think that I could make an extra income from my vegetables but now I can.” These are farmers who have been growing just coffee for many years, but now they have kitchen gardens where they grow vegetables and sell those for an extra income. I have always wanted to work with the farmers in my community to diversify because we had been growing only coffee for a long time but as we’ve seen today, it is possible to grow other crops as well.
Are there other young people in agriculture that inspire you? If yes, please tell us about one.
There aren’t very many young people who are doing agriculture, but there is a young farmer who grows vegetables and sells to markets in the Bagua area and he makes good money from that. During the pandemic, his vegetable business did very well and this motivated him even more. He started out with a small area but now he has about half a hectare or one hectare of land.
How do you link farmers with markets for their produce?
We usually sell directly to small bodegas (small grocery shops). We cannot sell wholesale in large quantities because the markets here in Jaén bring vegetables from the coast at low prices. So farmers end up making little or no profits at all. So we prefer going to bodegas. We gather their produce in small quantities and distribute the produce in bodegas or restaurants. This way, the farmers make more profits.
Could you share with us what your experience has been with working with farmers on Croppie?
When we introduced Croppie to farmers and told them that it is an app designed to enable them to get a yield prediction and even estimate their income, they were very happy. “If Croppie can help us count the coffee cherries without us having to do it entirely manually, we will have better results,” they said.
I also let them know that they could download the app and have it on their phones just like Facebook or WhatsApp. And that by following the clear, farmer-friendly instructions, without needing a technician, engineer or any other expert they would be able to estimate the yield from their farms.
And because farmers will be able to generate their own yield predictions, they say that this will really help them to make better investment decisions. So when I train them on how to use the app, I mostly allow them to experiment. When they get errors, I let them try again and only intervene when they are completely unable to do something and need support. Seeing farmers interested in understanding how to use the app, having them give feedback on their experience engaging with the app is always encouraging.
Are there any other opportunities Producers Direct has given you as a young agripreneur to help you grow your skills or grow in this field?
I learned more about biogardens and now I can train farmers on how to manage biogardens. I had very little knowledge in this area before, but by attending physical training sessions and through Farm Direct I got to learn more about vegetables and diversification of production. It is always nice to see farmers bring something new every time we meet for training.
In your opinion what kind of challenges do young people face when it comes to agriculture??
Today most youth prefer to live in the city. While their parents prefer for them to stay in their rural homes, most young people want to study different careers. It is not common to find many young people growing coffee but when you think about something like growing vegetables for example, that doesn’t take that much time and young people can do it. For example, I started my kitchen garden in a small part of my parents’ farm and I’ve gotten extra income from it. Sometimes young people don’t know that there are many opportunities they can explore in agriculture.
And how do you think they can be supported?
I think we need more orientation or training. Many young people see agriculture as difficult. When we speak about agriculture here, what comes to mind for young people is growing coffee, but it would be good to also learn about other diversification products so that they get to know that there are many different things they can grow and make money from growing these products.
Where do you see yourself five years from now? What are your future goals?
I will have graduated with a degree in forest and environmental engineering and I want to continue working in this sector. By 2028 I would like to have access to new markets for all the crops I am growing. Like I said earlier, I am interested in helping the farmers in my community and I would love to continue doing that through conducting training, visiting them in their farms and supporting them to increase production in their farms. I would also like to have my own business.