Guatemala prides itself in its diversity, the quality of its crops, and the labor of its farmers. The farmers strive every day to harvest and process products of high quality that are consumed locally and exported to important markets around the world. Guatemalan coffee is one of these world-renowned products, and the country exports a little over 200 million Kgs. of coffee annually to several countries around the world.
Some of that high-quality coffee is grown by farmers that belong to the Chajul Association (ASOCHAJUL) in the Ixil region in Quiché. This part of Guatemala was severely affected by a civil war that lasted 36 years (1960- 1996). A small group of coffee farmers who, at that time, were able to export only one container out of Guatemala founded ASOCHAJUL in 1988. However, as time passed the association became an important exporter association. Today, it comprises of nearly 1,500 members who work in 56 communities in the municipalities of Chajul, Nebaj, Cotzal, and Chiantla. This increase in size has also contributed to higher exports. In 2012, ASOCHAJUL exported 48 coffee containers to USA, Europe, and Japan.
In 2013, coffee rust ravaged the majority of plantations in the region. This seriously affected yields, and since this epidemic, the effort to recover high past production rates has represented a challenge and a priority for the members of the association. In fact, the amount of containers for exportation decreased from the 48 exported on 2012 to 11 on 2014.
Despite the rust, coffee growers work hard, aiming to continue to meet the commitment with their clients around the world. ASOCHAJUL members have systematically increased their production since 2014. In 2016, they registered the exportation of 18 containers and 2017 looks even more promising.
In an effort to maintain the quality of their coffee and its competitiveness in the market, the association faced a new challenge: how to efficiently manage large volumes of information from different sources required for complying with certifications required for export. Since its founding, the association used manual methods to record information regarding their members, production, required certifications, among other information. This effort led to significant amounts of paperwork and time invested in data management and quality control. With the constant demand for accurate records, the association identified the need to adopt new technology to streamline data management and ensure that practices in the field comply with required certifications that ASOCHAJUL proudly maintains.
To address this need, the Syngenta Foundation introduced the Farmforce technology to Guatemala through a partnership with Mercy Corps funded by Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation. Farmforce is a service as a software platform developed by the Syngenta Foundation to help exporters managing smallholders farmers maintain access to formal markets while at the same time providing an on-farm management tool.
The association identified Farmforce as an adaptable system that could address their information management needs. ASOCHAJUL began using Farmforce on September of 2016 by registering their farmers, areas of production under cultivation, and projections for the upcoming season. ASOCHAJUL’s field technicians and promoters are pleased that they do not have to gather and enter all the information on paper anymore, which was a process that took three months every year. By the end of the 2016 season, the farmers entered into the system all of the information needed to comply with the prestigious organic certification.
Information of all active producers has been entered in a digital format and is stored in the cloud. The software is well organized and can be accessed from anywhere. ASOCHAJUL is getting ready for the next organic certification audit process that will take place over the next couple of months. They are excited that they will be able to present the information stored in Farmforce, which will represent a faster, easier, and a more accurate reporting procedure.
Arcadio Galindo, president of ASOCHAJUL, stated that Farmforce is helping the association comply with the requirements of the certifications; provide information to final consumers and buyers; access detailed information of each plantation in real time; conduct productivity analysis; make projections; monitor growing activities; determine altitude and productive areas; and easily locate the farms in the maps.
Members of the association and residents of the Ixil region overall have been negatively affected by several circumstances in life. Nevertheless, they have a culture of overcoming challenges, building resilience, and ensuring Guatemalan coffee remains among the finest coffees of the world. Farmforce represents a great ally in their commitment to thrive.
You can see more information about this case study in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRB-hS778xc&t=1s