Guatemala is the world’s third largest exporter of snow peas and sugar snap peas. More than 35,000 indigenous smallholder farmers in the highlands produce the majority of these crops, and nearly 70 percent of snow peas consumed in the United States come from Guatemala. For farmers and others working in the value chain for peas, this lucrative export market is critical to their livelihoods.
But in a country where the agricultural market infrastructure is still modernizing, affordable technological solutions are needed to ensure that shifting trade protocols don’t put farmers out of business. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently finalizing regulations for the Food Safety Modernization Act, which will require all exporters to provide data to help trace their produce to the farm where it was grown. Though some traceability protocol exists in Guatemala, the current system does not provide the required level of detail. Without better traceability assurances, nearly $280 million in snow pea exports could be shut out of the U.S. market every year.
USAID, through the Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation program, is addressing this challenge by partnering with a consortium led by Mercy Corps with the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture and Fair-Fruit, a Guatemalan horticulture exporter. The consortium is setting up a modern traceability system using Farmforce, a web-based software created by the Syngenta Foundation that replaces pen-and-paper systems and links smallholder farmers to other actors in the agricultural value chain. Farmforce increases management information and transparency, promotes compliance and simplifies auditing and traceability, allowing exporters to track products from farmers to the point of sale.
Easy to use and affordable, Farmforce is ideal for companies that work with smallholders. In addition, the platform provides a comprehensive and customizable suite of services that improve exporters’ and smallholders’ ability to work together. For example, it tracks production activity such as pesticide use, provides geographic information system coordinates and enables electronic loan payments and mobile receipts. The Syngenta Foundation has already sold its first Farmforce subscription to Frutesa, another Guatemalan exporter.
Under the partnership, farmer organizations that supply Fair-Fruit receive agronomic assistance through the Asociación para el Desarrollo Integral y Sostenible de la Agricultura en Guatemala (ADISAGUA), a local NGO founded by Fair-Fruit. Farmers receive training and technical assistance on food safety and quality standards for the export market, and learn best practices to increase productivity. Training from ADISAGUA has helped double these farmers’ snow pea yields.
With millions of smallholders in the region, Farmforce’s entry into Guatemala marks the first stage of what could be a major transformation of how famers throughout the region access global markets and increase their incomes.