Simple smartphone technology is improving the farming techniques of smallholder farmers in Guatemala, allowing them to better manage their farms and access the U.S. market.
Mercy Corps, an international humanitarian NGO, has worked together with Fair Fruit to support smallholder farmers in the Western Highlands of Guatemala for over ten years, helping farmers improve their crop management techniques and access local and international markets. Recently, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years, was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011. It aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.
Through this reform, the FDA is directed to establish a system that will enhance its ability to track and trace both domestic and imported foods. The law also directs the FDA to develop a comprehensive plan to expand the capacity of foreign governments and their industries. Mercy Corps knew none of the groups and supply chains we had worked with would be able to meet these new FDA standards for produce traceability, and began looking with Fair Fruit for options to keep the farmers connected to the U.S. export market
Fair Fruit learned about the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture’s Farmforce traceability technology and Mercy Corps heard about its success in Kenya. USAID pushed for the collaborative effort as they wanted to see how to establish digital traceability systems in Central America. With USAID/Guatemala encouragement, Mercy Corps, Fair Fruit, and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture joined forces and applied for a grant under the FTF Partnering for Innovation program.
To date, more than 1,500 smallholder farmers have begun using Farmforce to improve their farm management and keep them eligible to export to the U.S. under these new regulations, with new farmers and producer’s groups signing up everyday. Through Farmforce, Mercy Corps, Fair Fruit, and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture are keeping smallholder farmers connected to the global food supply chain.