Mobile Technology Project

Information Tracking Systems for Producers

What: Using Mobile technology to enhance farm management and market access
Partner: USAID Compete
Timeframe: 2010 – 2011
Region: Tanzania

Background:

Kilicafe is a brand name of the Association of Kilimanjaro Specialty Coffee Growers. Kilicafe coffees grow in the Tanzanian highlands near Mount Kilimanjaro and the Mount Livingstone range in the southwest part of the country.

Launched in 2001, Kilicafe is focused on increasing market opportunity for its members. Representing 12,000 farmers organized into 217 subgroups, the cooperative was formed in reaction to poorly managed quality control that led to low prices for farmers.

Despite its activities to support coffee producers through the promotion of better coffee quality, providing credit resources, building channels to higher paying buyers, Kilicafe farmers continue to struggle to meet the demands of the specialty coffee market.

Challenge:

Like many East African coffee farmers, Kilicafe members don’t have the tools to efficiently collect and organize quality-related information about their coffee such as which farms are included in a particular lot, where and when it was washed/dried/stored and average cupping scores.   What little data is collected can be painfully difficult to transmit. Information from one Kilicafe field chapter to the main office in Moshi can take two full days, while physical samples can take over a week to get from the southern chapters to Moshi. Without a better way to collect and share data, cooperatives lose the opportunity to separate their coffee for sale to specialty roasters, negotiate higher price premiums and enter into long-term buying relationships with roasters.

Solution:

Recognizing this challenge, Sustainable Harvest® developed the Relationship Information Tracking System for Producers (RITS Producer).  RITS Producer is a unique mobile application designed to improve the livelihoods of smallholder coffee producers by helping them increase their cooperative’s competitiveness, efficiency and communication, thus providing transparency and logistical clarity to all members of the supply chain.  Although RITS Producer usage scenarios are optimized for the iPad and iPhone, the application can be accessed via any web browser or smart phone.

Sustainable Harvest® staff in Moshi worked with Kilicafe’s North chapters at four washing stations, to track coffee as it went through each step of processing. Sixteen people (four from each washing station) were trained on everything from basic computer skills to the intricacies of the RITS system. The response to RITS was very positive, as most users saw how computers and mobile phones negated the need for endless paperwork and created significant efficiencies.

Outcome:

By tracking key data starting from individual farmers, Kilicafe received the tools needed to maximize availability of their highest quality coffees and identify areas for quality improvement overall.  This enabled Kilicafe to better meet the needs of their roaster customers.  

To-date the program has registered almost 3400 farmers and tracked 131,485 kilograms of coffee, which represents $170,472 worth of coffee tracked with the RITS Producer system.  Additionally, we found that RITS Producer reduced the time spent collecting information for grower certifications by 65%.