5 things to share about field testing

What is it like to trial digital tools in small-scale agriculture?

“Will the spotty nature of mobile networks in rural areas impact the performance of the platform?’

‘It was very exciting because we worked hand in hand with producers.’

‘Definitely came away from it with a lot more motivation to continue working.’

Our team recently completed our first beta-testing phase in rural parts of Colombia, namely in Risaralda, Caquetá, and Montes de María. We were often asked questions about our field experience, what challenges we encountered, and what improvements we’d make to our user-centric design process.

What is Listo?

“The goal of the platform is to make it much easier for smallholder farmers and local associations to organise and sell in local markets.’

Be sure to check out the video to find out more:

World Development Information Day

Information and communications technologies have the potential to provide new solutions to development challenges, particularly in the context of globalization, and can foster economic growth, competitiveness, access to information and knowledge, poverty eradication and social inclusion.

UN General Assembly Resolution

#WorldDevelopmentInformationDay aims to spread awareness about technology’s potential to solve social problems.

That is why we want to share some of the key stats about our Listo platform for selling and buying agricultural goods through mobile phones.For instance:

For instance:

  • What’s the gender composition of smallholders in our platform?
  • What key agricultural commodities do the producers grow and sell?
  • What types of mobile phones do they have access to?
  • How do they prefer to receive information on their mobile phones?
Infographic of trading platform for selling and buying of smallholder agricultural goods

Meeting honey growers in the Amazon region

What is it like to work with bees in the Colombian Amazon region? And how do bees contribute to the pollination of crops in our food systems?

We spent some time chatting with honey growers (called apicultores in Spanish) in Caquetá, one of the southern departments of Colombia.

Check out our newest video to find out more (English subtitles available):

Meeting cacao growers in Florencia

During our field trip to Caquetá, we visited small-scale cacao growers (‘cacaoteros‘ in Spanish). Surrounded by a lush green environment, they shared with us how they manage their farms and described the importance of cacao in their communities and their efforts in restoring forests in the Colombian Amazon region.

Find out more in the clip below (English subtitles provided).

Caquetá: golden gate to the Colombian Amazon rainforest

Arriving in Caquetá

It was a magical moment when we were about to land in Florencia. Flying over the numerous rivers in Caquetá, our plane was very close to the water and I thought for a split second that we were on a seaplane landing on water. That was not the case, obviously. When we got out of the plane, I was hit by a rush of hot air. Nearly a 15 degrees (Celsius) difference between Bogotá and Florencia. Sunshine and humidity galore!

A bit about Caquetá 

Caquetá is known as the “golden door” to the Amazon region in Colombia and uniquely contains part of the Andes mountains (the Eastern Cordillera) and access to the Amazonian region, hence the term the “Andean-Amazonian transition zone”. The extensive river system, of which we caught a glimpse on the plane, is an important natural resource of the department and also for the country as a whole. For example, rivers are used as part of the waterway transportation system (transporte fluvial in Spanish).

The extremely diverse and unique varieties of the plants in Caquetá are absolutely impressive. The rich soil and abundant levels of sun and rain make this a perfect place for agriculture.

Engaging with local farmers and discovering the diversity of their farms

Similar to our previous workshops in Dosquebradas, we held a series of stakeholder engagement activities with local small-scale farmers to better understand their agricultural processes, their concerns, and the challenges they face in supply chains.

There is a wide range of products offered by these farmers, including cacao, coffee, avocado, plantain, pepper, cassava (known as yuca here), and various citrus fruits. In addition, they grow exotic crops found in the Amazon region, such as sacha inchi, araza, and a very sweet type of pineapple known as gold honey. (Highly recommend our readers to try out these fruits if any of you are visiting the region.)

Challenges faced by local farmers

From San José de la Fragua to northeast of Puerto Rico, one of the common narratives of farmers from this region was that there are not enough buyers. There were also insufficient collection points or distribution centres (called centros de acopio) for them to aggregate volumes.

In parallel, deforestation has been a major issue but they are working hard to ensure the conservation of their areas. For instance, a group of honey growers are dedicating their time and efforts to raise bees and conserve wild flora in the environment. Currently they work with two main species – Apis mellifera and Meliponas, the latter of which is native to the region.

On top of the existing challenges faced by farmers, there have also been unpredictable changes to the climate that affect their production. These unpredictable weather events have been impacting the quality and quantity of their products.

A special place in our hearts

Despite all this, what we witnessed in Caquetá was the courage and resiliency of these wonderful farmers, continuing to work on their farms under tough conditions and overcoming obstacles when presented to them. One cacao farmer took the time to describe to me in detail the amount of care and constant management of their farms. At the end, I feel truly blessed to have met these wonderful people. The smiles on their faces and their kindness are contagious and have touched a special place in our hearts.

Meeting coffee growers in Colombia

Recently we visited small-scale coffee growers (‘caficultores‘ in Spanish) in Dosquebradas, Colombia. At an altitude of more than 1,400 m and surrounded by a lush landscape and endless hills into the horizon, we chatted with local growers about what they do, the challenges they encounter, and their opinion of our project.

Find out more in the clip below (English subtitles provided).