Purdue - University of Los Llanos Farmer to Farmer Project in Meta, Colombia: September 2014 - 2017
The main goal for the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) project in Colombia’s Orinoquia Region was to promote rural development to support sustainable and economically equitable peace in the region, through integrated volunteer technical assistance. The project focused on the Meta region of the Orinoquia, known for its diverse ecological landscapes. Specifically, Purdue and its in-country partner, Unillanos (University de los Llanos) focused on two areas in the Meta department (state): the Altillanura and Ariari regions. These areas have high exposure to extensive cattle ranching and low-input agriculture1 and are home to 46 protected indigenous groups as well as families that are recipients of land grants from the Colombian government who had been displaced by armed conflict. A recent surge in development of infrastructure, industrial-scale agriculture, and the hopes of a lasting peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), led to the need for an increased focus on rural development. The project sought a balance between assisting small farms that use sustainable agricultural practices and larger agro-industries in the region.
The overarching strategy used to achieve this goal was to help build sustainable local food value chains. In order to accomplish this, decades of farmers’ perceptions and practices in marketing their products needed to be addressed. They had long been accustomed to selling products to intermediary markets where they were often paid nominal fees, while the intermediaries enjoyed the profits. The local food value chains, which are also referred to as “food hubs”, look different in each of the two focus regions. According to the USDA, the definition of a food hub is a “value-based supply chain”. Essentially, that means from farmer (or producer) to consumer the entire supply chain and production thereof is completely transparent. The development of value chains/food hub concepts was tailored to meet the differing needs of each of the focus areas for this project.
Purdue Utility Platform - PUP - The AgRover assignment for the Farmer to Farmer Project
The Orinoquia region has poor quality secondary and tertiary roads, particularly those that connect farms to main roads. While improvement has been made to the main roads over the past decade, farmers continue to face challenges in transporting products from the farms to collection points or market. The AgRover is sturdy enough to withstand the poor road conditions, thus bridging the gap between the farmers and the collection points to get their products to the market or food hub. Practical and economically affordable transportation solutions are needed for small and medium producers, which can be used individually or collectively.
Based on the experience of the Purdue Utility Platform project in African countries, the Farmer-to-Farmer project was interested in finding a way to offer a solution for farmers in the Orinoquia. An assignment was designed to have the engineering team from Purdue University construct an AgRover at the University of the Llanos, while teaching students from local universities how to build and maintain it, in order to ensure future models can be reproduced and serviced.
During a four-week assignment, Purdue University engineers John Lumpkes, Tyler Anselm and David Wilson, working as volunteers for the F2F, constructed the Purdue Utility Platform - AgRover. All materials for the tool/vehicle were purchased in country to further boost the local economy and ensure all parts were locally available.
The AgRover is a practical and strong tool to face most of the requirements by farmers. It boasts a 1 ton carrying capacity. Apart from being able to transport goods, through its flexible engine system the AgRover is also capable of powering a variety of attachments and implements like water pumps, maize grinders, generators, threshers, plows, and planters and be used for small land preparation. The vehicle has been used in different African countries due to its practicality and efficiency in supporting farm activities and transportation needs.
Examples of uses of the AgRover for farmers are to: transport milk from the production site to the collection point; transport feed, wood, fruit, or other organic matter on the farm; to pump water or to use a pump for irrigation. The AgRover offers an efficient transportation solution for farms along with a number of other capabilities.
The comparative cost analysis between the AgRover or similar equipment in Colombia revealed that that local equipment cost twice as much and comparable transport services were not suited for farm work conditions. In this context, the AgRover offers real solutions to the farmers and meets the needs of either individual or groups of farmers.
The AgRover was tested at the Unillanos farm to collect and transport fruits and other harvested produce, and to transport equipment and materials to field activities. Below are some pictures showing construction and launch of the AgRover at Unillanos. Authorities of Unillanos, researchers, local and regional agricultural representatives took part of this activity.
The promotion of the AgRover has been extended to the Municipality of Puerto Lopez, where the Small Farm Conference supported by the Farmer-to-Farmer project was held, showing the farmers on field conditions the versatility of the vehicle and potential uses for farming activities. It was a positive experience with very enthusiastic comments by farmers of benefits that they may get with this type of equipment. The pictures below show some images of the experiences with farmers.
The AgRover was showcased at other seminars, such as an Aquaculture seminar organized by Unillanos, where it was explained and showed to fish producers who were considering introducing it to their fish farming activities. Uniallnos continues to have meetings with different institutions, such as the Secretary of Agriculture of Meta department, to explore the chance to build more vehicles and make the AgRover more available for producers in the Orinoquia region.
Farmer's Store, Marketing Alternatives for Small Producers
In the Meta region of Colombia, one of the main challenges faced by small agricultural producers is marketing, means of transportation, and communication. The only way to sell their products is through intermediaries. This leads to many disadvantages for the farmers because the payment they receive for their products is extremely low, often times below the cost of production.
The government, institutions and other organizations responsible for providing support to small producers have focused their efforts on improving production, leaving aside marketing support.
To alleviate this problem, a group of farmers in the municipality of Puerto López has been actively implementing processes and recommendations from the Farmer-to-Farmer project. In July 2017, with the support of Bionergy, the Governor of Meta, and F2F volunteers, farmers decided to open a point of sale, where small producers could market their products without intermediaries, while offering competitive prices to the inhabitants of the region. The creation of this Farmers’ store, is the first food hub in this region that is owned and operated by the farmers who grow the products.
Following the recommendations of the volunteers Amanda Dickson (farm accounts) and Jerry Shafer (Marketing and communications strategies for small agricultural producers), and with the support and advice of the local team, the store has managed to generate sales of approximately $1,000/month. The profits generated by this venture have been reinvested in equipment and infrastructure and so far have managed to link approximately 10 producers to this market place.
In the future, the founders of this venture hope to link a greater number of farmers to the market. They also envision using the profits to provide low interest loans to small scale producers in the area.
New Products, New Strategies
Now, the challenge for several families in the area is the marketing of their new produce to generate income. Although some strategies such as farmer’s markets and direct contacts with customers are developing, the low volume of production limits these opportunities. In 2017 one of the members of CEP presented an idea of selling Christmas baskets, which was further explored with the support of a F2F volunteer. Through assignment # VP 23 (Market Niches) Andrew Crecelius recommended making a list of new products and designed a marketing strategy. This was further explored under the VP25 assignment (Organic Vegetable Production) by volunteer Richard Beckort who noted that the vegetable gardens were very small and recommended the organization should pool resources and form a marketing association. Until then, CEP member farmers sold their products individually. In December they joined together to create Christmas baskets that included vegetables, fruits and other processed products from different farms.
A design student who accompanied Andrew Crecelius during his assignment received training on marketing. The F2F field team worked with the student in designing a catalog of products; CEP gathered resources to purchase materials such as bottles and packaging, and finally their leaders were offering Christmas baskets for sale to local institutions! (In Colombia it is a tradition that companies or institutions give their employees Christmas baskets in December.) The local F2F team accompanied CEP leaders to some institutional government departments to offer baskets. CEP sold 50 baskets during Christmas season and sales reached USD $ 830. This year, CEP members are planning for more produce and more baskets, as they are making agreements with potential clients such as Meta governorate and Bionergy Company. In general, gathering produce, assembling and distributing baskets was a challenge for the group, with time and experience they are confident of succeeding in this venture.
Archived Farmer to Farmer Project in Colombia Blog
Farmer-to-Farmer Implementing Organizations
Below is the list of new implementing organizations, and the countries they cover.
· CNFA F2F Program with core countries in Southern Africa: Malawi, Mozambique, Angola
· ACDIVOCA F2F Program with core countries in Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (ECCA): Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Armenia & West Africa: Ghana, Liberia, Senegal, DRC
· Catholic Relief Services (CRS) F2F Program with core countries in East Africa: Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda
· Land O'Lakes F2F Program with core countries in Middle East & North Africa (MENA): Egypt, Lebanon
· Partners of the Americas F2F Program with core countries in the Caribbean Basin: Haiti, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua
· Winrock International F2F Program with core countries in Asia: Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal & West Africa, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal
· Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA) with core programs in Jamaica, Colombia, Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda
For more information, contact:
International Extension Program Coordinator