The consumption of food that comes from clean sources, be it organic or GMO-free, is a current market trend that seeks to provide healthier and more nutrient-rich options. This trend is due in part to increasing evidence of the impact of conventional and large-scale forms of agriculture that have generated greater toxicity –due to use of agrochemicals and pesticides, and risks to our health.
The production of clean or organic crops, preferably fruits and vegetables, requires fertilization, pest and plague control techniques that are quite different from conventional agricultural methods. The three limits that have been identified for organic or clean producers are the following:
- High costs (commercial costs) – inputs for organic farming are currently much costlier than conventional inputs.
- Investment and cultural limitations – the demands on time and preparation required to carry out this type of farming are high; this is further influenced by a cultural pressure to produce results and social pressures against trying “new practices”.
- Quality and access – organic materials are not always available throughout the country, in terms of distribution; the quality also differs depending on the place and the quantities needed by organic farmers are not always available.
In order to overcome these limitations, the Fruandes Community has established a project to create a bio factory to produce inputs locally in Cauca, Colombia. The plant has so far been successful in benefiting local farmers in the region, providing access to quality inputs at a lesser cost.
For this reason, the objective of the proposal is to replicate the bio factory model in other regions where Fruandes is currently working and having an impact on organic farming. Fruandes has identified the need to produce bio inputs in each of the regions it works in order to improve the economic, social and environmental conditions of each their partners (farmers’ associations), as has been done in Cauca.
The project aims to generate high-quality farming inputs for use in organic agriculture, which will help farming associations comply with their primary market requirements –producing organic fruit to be dried and exported, as well as any excess inputs or fruit to be locally to generate reserves and extra income. The project aims to do this by creating bio factories that use local resources as their inputs, and give priority to women and youth to manage them in the locations where Fruandes works - Palestina (Huila), Ibagué (Tolima), Ipiales (Nariño) y Viotá (Cundinamarca).
This project is directed at empowering the communities that Fruandes works with to find local solutions to their key agricultural needs. The production of organic inputs has positive benefits for women and youth in the communities to involve them more in organic agriculture; many participate now in preparing farming inputs, but this project aims to help them standardize and improve the quality of their inputs to generate better commercial and economic results. This would be done with the support of a permanent advisor to accompany them through the process.
Many times alternative farming inputs and organic production are seen as artisanal or niche processes that do not demonstrate or have large impacts and are often thought to be inefficient. The aim of this project is to show that with standardization and improved quality, these inputs can respond to farming needs and the demands of a growing market of alternatives, while generating stability and income for producers. In this sense, the project aims to improve the rigorousness of production and strengthen process to achieve standardization and optimal quality.
This project aims to standardize the production and quality processes of inputs to begin catering to organic producers within the geographic area the bio factory. By catering to these producers, the project aims to support producers to increase their yields while innovating on their own farms with the new standardized inputs.
The methodology that the project will implement is both participatory and constructive, as it aims to:
- nurture the ancestral knowledge and compliment it with scientific method through the transfer of technology.
- apply technical knowledge through tests that will allow us to evaluate results and translate those into best practices.
- Define exact formulas and tailor supply to local crops with products from the bio factories.
Each factory will have a leader, who will visit the pilot bio factory in Cauca, and will be supported by a technical and professional team. We are looking to interest more women and youth in organic techniques through the factory and the production chain, where we see more intergenerational transfer of knowledge about organic agriculture.
With this project is intended to impact several fields of action:
Social: This project aims to generate self-sustainable business models for communities; if successful it will impact the 325 families in the Fruandes community of Fruandes, which by 2020 projects to increase to 1000 families. On the other hand, this project wants to focus on the development of 20 women and 5 rural youth with the goal of visibilizing the value women add to agricultural development in the regions, and how agriculture can be a mode of empowerment for women; secondly, promote youth in agriculture and provide spaces for intergenerational exchange and knowledge transfer about organic agriculture.
Environmental: development, distribution and use of organic agricultural inputs is intended to have an impact the processes of certifying organic hectares. Currently 140.28 hectares have been certified and 2017’s goal is to grow by 170 more hectares, contributing towards Fruandes’ 2020 goal to have 1,000 hectares of certified organic production in Colombia. This will help create an efficient, clean and friendly agricultural development environment where bio factories play a fundamental role in the growth of organic farming.
Economic: in economic terms, small producers may see the first results from the first year of the implementation of these bio factories, seeing higher estimated performance of 15% in their crops and considerably reducing their production costs. On the other hand, contributing in part to the Bio factories will diversify their income sources.
The project can be scaled according to the growth of the value chain that Fruandes supports. As farmers begin to use the organic inputs, they can reduce costs and increase yields; the increase yields will produce residual material that can be fed back into the bio factory.