Rising temperatures, droughts, floods, unpredictable precipitation, new pests…climate change is wreaking havoc on farmers in vulnerable regions around the world. While we don’t yet have mobile technology to stop global warming, we do have an app to help farmers fight it.
The Rainforest Alliance’s new Farmer Training App connects farmers to our extensive climate-smart agriculture training modules, which can be downloaded while in signal range and used offline. The app also enables farmers to share tips, videos, and photos with one another—and build a growing web of knowledge and skills to build resilience to climate change, promote food security, and advance best practices in sustainable agriculture.
We piloted this app in 2015 with a cooperative of smallholder coffee farmers who live in a remote, rural area in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. Farmers and community leaders received training in how to operate the app, download information, and upload photos and stories of their own. With just the simplest of tablets or smartphones, a farmer can watch videos on improving productivity, waste management, wildlife conservation, and more. During the pilot, farmers interacted with each other as well as the Rainforest Alliance through a community message board, posing questions and sharing tips and information.
“With the app, we could see anything from good agricultural practices to how coffee prices are moving on the market,” Arnoldo Cifuentes, a smallholder coffee farmer said. “It’s as if someone is standing in front of you, saying ‘I did this, I did that.'” Farmers also got a better sense of where they are in the supply chain, looking at maps that show export routes. “It’s really satisfying,” Cifuentes said. “It’s like meeting the people who drink our coffee.”
This ingeniously simple, low-cost technology is accessible to everyone, regardless of age or gender. And because the information is presented in videos, photos, and graphics, farmers of all literacy levels can use the app, too. Furthermore, it is designed so that once it’s downloaded, it can run offline. A farmer in a remote area without internet can visit the cooperative office or town center to download, then carry the tablet out to his or her coffee plot.
The Rainforest Alliance is currently working to scale up this powerful conservation tool. We work with 1.2 million farmers around the world, providing training in sustainable, climate-smart methods that lead to greater yields, a healthier environment, and better lives and livelihoods for farmers and their families. Usually we deliver these trainings through “train-the-trainer” workshops and field schools, but our new app could potentially allow us to reach thousands more producers.
The fully developed app will host 20 interactive training videos, available in English, Spanish, French, and Bahasa Indonesian by the end of this year (with more languages coming soon).
“I know this app really helps us, and it will help future generations—it will help our daughters a lot,” smallholder coffee farmer Leticia Monzón said. “I encourage you to be part of this project.”