The Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) is a not-for-profit organization in Haiti aiming to make farming a viable and sustainable business for farmers. SFA’s unique model uses trees as currency: farmers earn agricultural inputs, e.g. seeds, training, tools, and microcredit by working in nurseries and planting trees. Currently, SFA farmers sell their products in the local Haitian market to informal buyers at a small scale. SFA is reframing its model to launch a social enterprise, seeking to close the loop between farmers and off-takers so that farmers can generate higher income from farming activities. Acting as an intermediary between commercial buyers and smallholder farmers, SFA’s new social enterprise will formalize organic cotton purchase arrangements with commercial buyers, like Timberland and Patagonia, and take a small margin on activities to sustain its efforts without ongoing grant funding.
To support this new organizational structure, SFA’s new social enterprise needs a unified data management system to monitor farmer production, manage its transactions, and build a transparent supply chain that meets commercial buyers’ requirements. The unified data management system aims to be the cornerstone for the scalability of SFA’s new social enterprise. The Columbia SIPA Capstone team’s foundational research comprised of understanding the market for cotton, surveying best practices in data management for agribusinesses, and evaluating various technology solutions, including blockchain. The team’s three-tiered recommendations include the data system architecture, specific technology platforms by maturity stage, and a blockchain feasibility assessment. As the technology matures, strong data management system will enable SFA to become blockchain ready.
Hugh Locke, Co-founder and President of Smallholder Farmers Alliance reflects on the valubale work SIPA students have conducted: Next Generation Digital Tools for Smallholder Farmers in Haiti.