Knowledge is power

07/2016
Solidaridad supports the continuous improvement of agriculture through a tool developed for producers to evaluate themselves and undertake actions that can improve their work and make it more productive and sustainable.

Solidaridad supports the continuous improvement of agriculture through a tool developed for producers to evaluate themselves and undertake actions that can improve their work and make it more productive and sustainable.

 

Only if we understand that we have a problem we can think about solutions to face it. Sometimes we are so absorbed by the details of our daily routine that we miss the overall picture of what happens in our organization or our personal life. This makes us overlook situations that affect our productivity and our well-being. On other occasions, thing are not working as they should, but we don’t understand where is the stumbling block that is preventing us from making progress. For theses reasons, we need to take a look to ourselves and identify our strengths and weaknesses. Only if we know ourselves and we find out what our problems are, we can improve.  

 

Rural Horizons was born to tackle these issues. It is a tool that Solidaridad developed in Brazil with the intention of helping producers to evaluate themselves and discover their weaknesses. With the support of Rural Horizons, Solidaridad encourages continuous improvement of agriculture to make sure that producers will be able to face the challenge of feeding an ever-growing population while protecting the environment.

 

The sugar cane program at Solidaridad Brazil was the first one to use the tool and it was so successful that it extended to different sectors, like oil palm, cocoa and soy, amongst others. Once Solidaridad proved that it was an effective tool, the organization decided to share it with the world: today, it is used in soy plantations in Paraguay, and in sugar cane and flower plantations in Colombia.

 

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Expanding horizons in Colombia

 

One of the main goals that Solidaridad Colombia intends to achieve through the Sustainable Trade Platform (PCS) is to support its partners in the path towards sustainability (environmental, social and economic). In that process, the PCS helps them to comply with the global sustainability standards of each sector, so that they can obtain international certifications.

 

To comply with the requirements of those sustainability standards, Rural Horizons is a wonderful tool, because it helps producers to identify what needs to be improved and, then, gives suggestions for them to take action. The PCS has introduced this tool in the sugar cane and flower sectors. In the future, it will also be helpful for small-scale oil palm producers who have to comply with very demanding requirements, created to measure big organizations. María Goretti Esquivel, program manager at Solidaridad, explains: “Rural Horizons is an excellent tool to support small-scale producers, who can use it to evaluate themselves and create a road map that helps them get closer and closer to sustainability standards”.

 

The path towards sustainability

 

To start using the tool, the first step is to adapt it to the local context and to the country’s agricultural practices. A questionnaire based on Colombian agricultural practices must be built, and, once it is ready, the questions go out to the field to find answers amongst farmers.

 

In the sugar cane sector, the PCS and Procaña –the association that financed the tool– are leading the process; in addition, other 20 people from the Ministry of the Environment, Cenicaña and Solidaridad, as well as producers and external consultants, have worked in the adaptation of the tool to the local context. It is an arduous task, because every question should be carefully analyzed and discussed so that the questionnaire ends up being as useful as possible and gives a valuable insight to determine the next steps in the path towards international certification, that in this case is Bonsucro. 

 

Although the process is long, they have made progress so quickly that the sugar cane sector probably will start implementing the tool by the end of this year, when they will truly understand the reality of the sector and they will be able to develop an action plan that will help them improve and make production more sustainable. For the time being, 268 questions have been written down; now, some of them will be removed and the rest will be uploaded to the platform to start pilot testing with 10 producers. Once they have the results and the tool proves to be efficient, it will be shared with the others producers of the sector.

 

The flower sector started working with Rural Horizons since last year, with the support of Florverde Sustainable Flowers and its director, Ximena Franco. About 500 questions, that match the certification requirements of Florverde, already went out to the field, where the first pilot testing is being implemented with five flower companies.

 

This tool is helping Colombian producers face the challenges they find on the field, as well as making progress to eventually reach the ideal level of development and sustainability. 

 

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