EARTH Futures and Walmart Foundation: Modeling horizontal support networks

Filed Under: EARTH Stories
Date: April 29th, 2021

Portrait of Consuelo and Eylin

Consuelo Granados, a short woman with kind eyes and strong hands, tends to the land in Tilarán, a Costa Rican town rich in wind, water, mountains, and coffee. She and her daughter, Eylin Carranza, dedicate their lives to the production of coffee as well as crops for personal consumption, such as yucca and plantain. Even in their earliest memories, they are on the mountain – planting, honoring the terrain’s magnitude, and excitedly picking the ripe cherry-red fruits from the coffee trees. To them and many other farmers in the region, coffee is life.

EARTH Futures staff and farmers discuss soil test results

To strengthen small-scale producers like Granados and Carranza, EARTH Futures (EARTH University’s global solutions center) joined forces with the Walmart Foundation to lead a project that trains 275 farmers from seven organizations throughout Costa Rica (CoopeCocotour, Asopaabi, El Trapiche, Ceproma La Palmera, CACProsa, Coopepilangosta, and Coopeldos) and 50 farmers in Guatemala.

One of the farmers takes notes in his notebook to manage his land

The project consists of three parts:

  • Precision Agriculture: EARTH Futures staff work directly with farmers to implement precision agriculture methods on their lands. Soil sampling is being carried out in order to provide guidance for boosting productivity and environmental sustainability. These recommendations balance traditional wisdom with new technologies, such as drone-enabled farm mapping and smartphone apps for data collection and interpretation.
  • Access to Markets: EARTH Futures staff collaborate with organizations to strengthen and even open new market alternatives in order to more effectively distribute and sell these farmers’ products.
  • Educating for the Future: EARTH Futures staff train young people from these communities on agricultural issues, in hopes of encouraging new generations to pursue farming.

Portrait of Luis Ángel

 

Luis Ángel Sequeira, too, is a coffee grower. He proudly roams around his farm, pointing out the white flowers that have begun budding on the branches of hundreds of coffee trees. Those flowers, which represent his extensive effort and tireless perseverance, are also the first signs of a great harvest ahead. To Sequeira, being part of this EARTH Futures–Walmart Foundation project is a unique opportunity to promote advancement, innovation, and adaptation to the everchanging conditions of markets, the climate, and technology.

Luis Ángel’s coffee plants

“We have learned about soil management, about how to interpret laboratory results, and about how to operationalize those results, so we can modify our practices and become better farmers,” Sequeira says. “In this area, we have been stuck using the same old methods, but everything is changing – not only technology but also the consequences of climate change – which is why we are establishing another way of farming and taking advantage of all the knowledge that EARTH is sharing with us.”

Sequeira has begun to implement changes on his farm that promote optimal use of resources and increase the productivity of his crops. “With the professionals from EARTH, we practice a constant sharing. We learn a lot from them, but they also learn from us and our experiences,” he adds. “It is an exercise in humility to ask for, accept, and give advice so that we all can improve together.”

Part of EARTH Future’s team at Tilarán

Thanks to the Walmart Foundation’s support, the EARTH Futures team is able to offer personalized attention to each farmer, with whom they discuss and determine possible solutions that meet the needs of their particular soils, available resources, and desired crop varieties. In addition, the project aims to strengthen the link between producers and the farming association of which they are part.

Ever since he was four years old, Jorge Vindas remembers accompanying his grandfather on visits to coffee plantations to understand the power of this influential crop and its effects on the area. Today a coffee grower in Tilarán, Vindas has dedicated himself to learning its intricacies, from the science of cultivating successfully to the art of winning tasting competitions. Vindas views his involvement in the initiative as an investment in reactivating agriculture – not only coffee but also other important crops across the country.

Portrait of Jorge

Undoubtedly, producers like Granados, Carranza, Sequeira, and Vindas are living proof that it is possible for the global agricultural sector to evolve, embracing innovation, sustainability, prosperity, collectivity, and justice. They exemplify how shared knowledge can be an indispensable tool for the socioeconomic development of regions, small or big. EARTH Futures and the Walmart Foundation are drivers of this development. Successes are already being seen and more will start to bud, like the coffee flowers in the windy mountains of Tilarán.

 

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