Introduction

Measuring impact is vital to managing risk and improving performance. That is why TMP Systems and Bonsucro have developed a better approach to monitoring and reporting, particularly for small farmers in emerging markets. Faster and more accurate information on agricultural supply chains will enable more efficient managerial processes that deliver better commercial, environmental and social impacts.

At present, brands, traders and large commodity producers struggle to say whether their operations drive human rights problems, like tenure disputes, or environmental damage, like deforestation. It is also difficult to identify the practices employed by farmers and how they can be made more efficient. This information barrier contributes to poor mutual understanding and unnecessary tension between farmers and their supply chain partners.

Better monitoring and reporting

TMP Systems and Bonsucro have collaborated to deliver a highly flexible toolset that addresses data shortfalls in the sugarcane sector. Farmers use Android-based mobile devices to collect and self-report data. This data can improve operational performance as well as the quality of sustainability reporting. Just as importantly, it helps farmers to build on the value of good data and technology systems, even and especially in areas where IT expertise is scarce.

The toolset has been tested and improved at 7 sugarcane production sites in 6 countries across Southern and East Africa (Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, eSwatini and South Africa) to ensure that the tools can be successfully applied in challenging, data scarce areas of emerging markets. We are now aiming to scale up implementation of the toolset to new geographic areas and commodity value chains.

Below, we provide a series of suggestions on how the toolset can be adopted and applied through four discrete “modules”. The toolset and modules are highly adaptable to both operational context and user requirement. Indeed this initiative strongly emphasizes the importance of a specialist working with farmers to adapt the tool to local context. This process ensures that the tool is for purpose and that it can then be modified in the absence of technical specialists.

The toolset uses open source technology so that farmers can freely adapt, expand and improve them once they understand the basic principles. In general, this gives farmers confidence in using new technology and changing their practices.

 

Modular monitoring tools

Monitoring tools that ask a great deal of farmers while offering little immediate return will fail. Farmers need to see a value proposition that talks clearly and directly to their circumstances in order to invest time in training and data collection processes. Farmers also have many competing priorities that limit their capacity to internalize large amounts of new, complex information.

A modular approach is perfectly suited to this problem. We have built a series of four interlocking modules that farmers and supply chain partners can pick from and add to. These modules integrate into existing data systems as required and come with complete training materials.

The modules can be used as stand-alone systems, or they can be integrated as the basis for an easy to use, low cost monitoring management system. For example, the pest and disease module can be used in the process of identifying infestations, with the exact herbicides and pesticide use in response recorded with the input management module.

1)    Pest and Disease Management: Helping farmers to collect and use accurate and re-traceable data that can be integrated into current scouting methods. This allows farmers to identify and respond to pest and disease issues more rapidly and efficiently.

Impacts: Reduced crop loss; better environmental protection; improved social license

2)    Input Management: Helping farmers to track and monitor inputs (agrochemicals and water) and report on any related standards or certifications. This module can inform input-based credit systems or form the basis for a complex crop calendar.

Impacts: Increased productivity; lower production costs

3)    Mapping: Giving farmers the skills to map fields, mark out key infrastructure and start the process of formal entitlement. Mapping also provides a format to manage and visualize any other data collected or held.

Impacts: Improved land management processes; stronger social license and cooperation

4)    Identification: Biometric systems for rapid and reliable identification of individuals at meetings, weighbridges and during payment processes. Improves the governance of farmer associations and facilitates better social license to operate for millers.

Impacts: Improved outgrower governance; reduced corruption and dispute; potential accountability to the farmer level

The Modules were developed over a period of 18 months while testing the participatory monitoring system at 7 sites across 6 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The process has been documented and published on the Bonsucro Blog and can be seen here.