Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Empowering Ethiopian Coffee Farmers

Share

Dimitra, a prominent AgTech enterprise system based on blockchain technology, is partnering closely with the Limu Inara Multipurpose Cooperatives Union in Ethiopia. This union consists of approximately 51,000 farmers and together they aim to enhance farmers’ livelihoods and revolutionize agricultural practices in the region.

Through this partnership, Ethiopian coffee farmers affiliated with the Limu Inara Cooperative Union will have access to Dimitra’s cutting-edge technology, enabling them to modernize and digitize various agricultural processes. Specifically, they will leverage Dimitra’s Connected Coffee Platform and Deforestation Compliance Module.

Recently European Union coffee importers are reducing purchases from small Ethiopian farmers in anticipation of a groundbreaking EU law that will prohibit the sale of goods associated with deforestation. Dimitra’s Connected Coffee Platform and Deforestation Compliance Module offer a solution to ease the challenges and costs of complying with the EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR).

Jon Trask is CEO and Founder of Dimitra and has been working with blockchain since 2017. Prior to founding Dimitra, Jon had an extensive career building and developing enterprise software solutions to revolutionize supply chain processes and improve immutable traceability. A recognized expert in his field, Jon is also Founder and CEO of Blockchain Guru and a Partner with the Blockchain Training Alliance. His extensive career in the tech industry has seen him awarded a vast array of accreditations. Jon’s mission now is to increase farming connectivity, particularly with those disenfranchised across the globe, and to leverage the power of innovative technologies to bridge farming and technology. 

Capital’s Groum Abate caught up with Jon Trask to talk about the new collaboration with Limu Inara and how his company’s technology help the small holder farmers in Ethiopia in regards to EUDR. Excerpts;

Capital: What is Dimitra, and what is its role in the AgTech industry?

Jon Trask: Dimitra is a  blockchain-based enterprise system for AgTech driving productive, intelligent and inclusive farming. By removing data silos, we empower farmers to improve their farming processes through real-time insights.  Each of Dimitra’s tailored platforms facilitate access to specific, affordable technology solutions to help increase crop outputs (across 50 crops), reduce their expenses, and mitigate any risks. 

Dimitra has 5 market-leading platforms that empower farmers to implement better ways of working through real, tangible insights. These platforms include: 

  • Connected Farmer – an app which allows farmers to track finances, manage crops, access weather predictions, and stay in compliance with local government regulations. 
  • Livestock Guru – supplies data into insights about cattle and farm animals that help reduce record-keeping time and bolster data-driven decisions.
  • Connected Coffee – Actionable insights for coffee farmers to increase the quality and quantity of their coffee beans.
  • Deforestation platform – This platform produces deforestation certification for farmers, traders, operators and consumer packaged goods companies to ensure every shipment is compliant and meets the regulatory demands.
  • Connected Cacao – This application allows farmers to optimize each stage of the cacao farming process, from cultivation, harvesting, fermentation, drying, storage, and marketing, reducing resource waste and increasing productivity.

All of Dimitra’s tech is accessible on mobile, meaning farmers have complete functionality and insights on the go, all in real time. Using data collected from each farm, Dimitra builds a full picture for each farmer, presenting them with simple actions they can implement to truly improve their processes and maximize efficiency. Dimitra also builds custom software for features that farmers and customers require specific to their industries or farms. At Dimitra we believe, every farmer across the world should benefit from data-driven, effective farming technologies regardless of their economic standing, ensuring those that need it most have access.

Capital: What is the collaboration with Limu Inara Multipurpose Cooperatives Union?

Jon Trask: Through the collaboration, the Ethiopian coffee farmers affiliated with the Limu Inara Cooperative Union will gain access to Dimitra’s industry-leading technology, enabling farmers to modernize and digitize various agricultural processes. In particular, they will deploy Dimitra’s Connected Coffee Platform and Deforestation Compliance Module.

Capital: How many farmers are part of the Limu Inara Multipurpose Cooperatives Union?

Jon Trask: LIFMCU is an umbrella union for four district farmers namely Limu Kosa, Limu Seka, Chora Bottor and Nono Benja. The Union was established in 2006 by 11 primary cooperatives and 3083 member farmers with an initial capital of 158,000 Ethiopian Birr. The union is located in the western part of Ethiopia in Oromia Regional State. Currently, the number of member cooperatives has increased to 95 primary cooperatives and its members have reached 34,687 farmers. Out of the mentioned primary cooperatives 37 of them or 15,483 members are in the coffee production area. 5,360 coffee farmers from 10 primary cooperatives are Fairtrade certified and sell their product on Fairtrade terms. 

Capital: What are the challenges faced by smallholder farmers in the region?

Jon Trask: Smallholder farmers are an invaluable asset to the global food economy. Despite their size, they produce more than a third (around 35 per cent) of the world’s food and contribute up to 80 per cent of the food supply in sub-Saharan Africa. These growers play a key role in providing nutritious food to their local communities, maintaining ecosystems, and promoting sustainable agriculture.

However, smallholder farmers in Ethiopia face significant challenges. They often lack sufficient funds, work with inadequate infrastructure, and are vulnerable to the whims of supply chains that tend to favor large-scale farmers. Climate change also plays a role in making it difficult for smallholder farmers to sustain their agricultural operations. Severe weather events and changes in weather patterns have damaged land, creating unpredictable conditions for harvesting crops.

In particular, insufficient finances are a major challenge. Most smallholders do not qualify for bank loans due to a lack of collateral assets like land titles and limited access to technology. Additionally, smallholder farmers often lack access to modern farming technologies, such as irrigation systems and smart fertilizing methods.

Capital: What is the EUDR law, and how does it impact the sale of goods linked to forest destruction?

Jon Trask: The EUDR law imposes a ban on the sale of products from deforested areas within its borders, set to take effect on December 30, 2024. This regulation implements a tiered system of inspections and penalties based on the perceived risk level of the country of origin. While designed to ensure compliance, this structure inadvertently places a burden on smaller farming entities.

The regulation encompasses timber, soy, coffee, cocoa, beef, palm oil, and related products, imposing obligatory due diligence responsibilities on both consumers and producers situated along the supply chain. This means that these products do not have access to the European market if they are not certified. Dimitra’s technology facilitates transparency and tracking throughout the supply chain, making it easier to comply with these regulations. Dimitra has developed blockchain-based solutions to assess deforestation and ensure compliance for producers, traders, and consumer goods firms.

Capital: What efforts has the Ethiopian government made to combat deforestation and promote sustainable coffee production?

Jon Trask: The Ethiopian government in collaboration with the UNDP and GEF, inaugurated the FOLUR project to combat deforestation and promote sustainable coffee practices. With a budget of USD 20.8 million, the initiative spans 22 regions, aiming to avoid 7 million tons of CO2 emissions, improve livelihoods for 440,000 people, and restore unproductive coffee gardens and Afromontane Forest. The project aligns with Ethiopia’s Green Legacy Initiative and climate strategies, emphasizing the need for effective collaboration among stakeholders for successful implementation.

Capital: What are the objectives of the project between Dimitra and the Limu Inara Multipurpose Cooperatives Union?

Jon Trask: Importers of coffee to the European Union are starting to scale back purchases from small farmers in Ethiopia – where some 5 million farming families rely on the crop — as they prepare for a landmark EU law that will ban the sale of goods linked to the destruction of forests.

Dimitra’s Connected Coffee Platform and Deforestation Compliance Module solution is poised to alleviate the cost and difficulty of complying with the EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR).

Capital: How will the project improve the livelihoods of farmers in the region?

Jon Trask: The ability to supply traceability for products and prove compliance with regulations adds significant value to the coffee produced by Ethiopian farmers in the region. This not only safeguards their market access within the EU but also opens up opportunities to reach new markets that prioritize sustainably sourced products. By providing an efficient and technologically advanced way to trace and prove the origins of coffee beans, Dimitra’s technology not only supports compliance but also empowers farmers in the face of evolving market demands. The ability to safeguard local produce from market exclusion ensures that the livelihoods of these farmers will not be compromised due to regulatory decisions that lie out of their control. 

Capital: How will the project help farmers remain competitive in the commodity market?

Jon Trask: Proving compliance with regulation with traceability and immutable data regarding the farming practices of these farmers adds significant value to the coffee produced by Ethiopian farmers. This not only safeguards their market access within the EU but also opens up opportunities to reach new markets that prioritize sustainably sourced products. By providing an efficient and technologically advanced way to trace and prove the origins of coffee beans, Dimitra’s technology not only supports compliance but also empowers farmers in the face of evolving market demands.

Capital: Will you partner with other Cooperatives?

Jon Trask: Yes, we have partnered with 3 other cooperatives and are in discussions with a few more.

Capital: Will your project be on time for application of the EUDR law?

Jon Trask: Dimitra’s application already delivers end-to-end functionality for coffee supply chain as well as deforestation assessment with two Ethiopian languages already added to the platform.

The biggest challenge will be training the farmers – Dimitra trains their trainers who then go to the field for onboarding. Initial training is taking place in January, training 50,000 farmers will take many rounds of training.

Read more