This SIGHT project, awarded funding in 2018, was developed to train farmers and community leaders on the use of a technology-based solution (a mobile app) to mitigate the middleman problem, to foster the transition from conventional to organic farming, and to provide basic tools to run the farms as (small) businesses. The project includes a fairly complete set of activities to contribute to the sustainability of organic farming, with the goals of increasing farmers’ income, having a positive health impact on people and the environment, and developing a new module for the mobile app that will allow farmers to announce on a weekly basis what they have for sale and at what price.
On 27 February 2019, IEEE volunteers and guests conducted the workshop, “Fostering organic agriculture with the support of a technological tool to reduce intermediation” in the community of Cobano, Costa Rica to train farmers on the use of the mobile app. The session is the first of three planned with IEEE SIGHT sponsorship to improve the quality of life for an underserved population, and involve the various stakeholders who will contribute to the migration from conventional to organic farming. They will also serve to promote the participative certification of organic produce – something many farmers haven’t heard of – and dispel the myth that the certification is expensive and can only be done through an agency.
The farmers present were interested in the topics discussed and hope to be able to continue similar activities in the future. They were happy with the instructions received from IEEE volunteers to download the app to their phones and send GPS coordinates. A broader need to close the digital divide was observed.
In summary, the team realized that a follow-up session is needed to engage the community in the process of developing a participatory guarantee system for organic certification, an activity that is the responsibility of the two partners, MAG and ASOMAOCO. Although this is beyond the scope of direct IEEE involvement, it is very important for the sustainability of the project. Also, more training is recommended for farmers to take full advantage of the app, called “CR Organico,” which was developed by the team’s third partner organization, ICE.