How can digital education empower coffee professionals at origin and transform the industry, considering the challenges posed by outdated data collection methods and the limited implementation of digital tools?
Gersón Solórzano, a certification technician from the San Marcos area in the Honduran department of Ocotepeque, is employed by UnioCasmo. This local union of coffee organizations supports approximately 350 smallholder coffee producers by providing various services, including technical assistance, access to financial support and market opportunities, and assistance with certifications. The organization prides itself on producing traceable coffee, a highly sought-after quality in the Global North. However, the process of registering farm data on paper remains arduous and prone to human errors, hindering efficiency and progress.
Despite the widespread availability of digital solutions, many farmers and farmer organizations still rely on manual notepads for recording essential information, such as crop volume and fertilizer usage. The implementation of digital tools at origin has been limited due to two main reasons. Firstly, technology suppliers often take a top-down approach when developing data collection tools, resulting in low adoption rates and skepticism among farmers. Secondly, there is a lack of awareness among coffee professionals at origin regarding available options and the benefits they offer.
Education on digitalization
Addressing the need for education on digitalization, Digital Coffee Future (DCF) has developed the Digital Origin Education Program (DOEP). This 14-week training program aims to equip participants with resources, guidance, and knowledge to identify their organizations’ digitalization needs and design a roadmap for their digital journey. In collaboration with the Hanns R. Neumann Foundation and the German Agency for International Cooperation GmbH (GIZ), DCF partnered to provide training to 20 cooperatives in Guatemala and Honduras, including Mr. Solórzano’s UnioCasmo.
The program included six weeks of online live lectures, practical exercises, and group discussions, followed by two months of personalized mentorship. This comprehensive approach ensured that participants not only designed their digitalization plans but also underwent a thorough assessment of their organizations’ needs and digital readiness. By focusing on this groundwork, often overlooked in digitalization initiatives, DOEP ensured the solidity and effectiveness of the participants’ digitalization plans.
During the program, participants evaluated various tools and data sets required for their processes, determined responsible parties for data collection and management, and explored methods to ensure data quality. The final modules of the training program equipped participants with the necessary tools and knowledge to monitor and evaluate their digitalization projects, ensuring sustainability and efficiency. Additionally, DOEP facilitated knowledge exchange and networking opportunities among regional cooperatives, fostering professional connections based on shared interests and challenges.
Knowledge is strength
DOEP recognizes that technology alone cannot overcome the significant challenges faced by coffee farmers, such as climate change, gender inequality, limited access to credit, and price volatility. However, by empowering farmers with knowledge about digital tools and their potential to enhance business growth and sustainability, DOEP enables participants to take control of their work. Mr. Solórzano expressed his newfound understanding of the importance of digitalizing documents in their organization and shared UnioCasmo’s goal of digitalizing the entire coffee value chain by 2023, utilizing the knowledge acquired through DOEP.
Currently, DOEP is the only training program focused on sharing knowledge with origin coffee professionals to help them design, plan, and implement their digitalization journeys. Following the successful pilot in Guatemala and Honduras, DCF is expanding this opportunity to other Latin American countries. Scholarships are available for prospective participants, thanks to support from GFAR.
To learn more about this training program and register for future cohorts, please visit https://www.digitalcoffeefuture.com/doep-en. The dates for the next cohort will be announced shortly. Please note that DOEP is currently available only in Spanish.
If your organization is interested in supporting the access of coffee professionals at origin to digitalization training, please contact DCF at email@example.com.