Luker Chocolate celebrates female farmers engaging with cocoa sector digital transformation

Colombia’s Luker Chocolate has highlighted a drive towards supporting female farmers create enhanced sustainability practices within cocoa growing operations, writes Neill Barston.

As this month saw the International Women’s Day celebrated, the company revealed the story of two inspirational stories from its workers, who have utilised technology and agricultural expertise to make a difference in their roles.

With digital transformation high on the agenda of many businesses, Luker noted that while for many around the world, this might mean urban tech developments in high-rise office blocks, rural communities can also be very much invested in shaping how supply chains are delivered.

Moreover, a case in point is the story of Maria Luisa Orozco Perez, a 41-year-old agronomist from Manizales, specialising in Agricultural Development at Luker Chocolate. She develops and designs educational materials for farmers, helping them to understand and adopt best practice for greater productivity and sustainability.

As the company explained, in 2020, the pandemic hit, and Maria Luisa feared that, with the country locked down, she wouldn’t be able to meet with farmers and continue her important educational outreach. The danger was that, without access to the latest data and guidance on sustainable cocoa growing practices, farming insights and economic opportunities would be lost. With face-to-face meetings impossible, Maria Luisa decided to get creative.

From there, Maria Luisa immediately set about transforming hardcopy materials into digital formats, sharing them with farmers on tablets that were rotated across the Urabá, Bajo Cauca, Tumaco and Huila regions. Maria’s quick thinking ensured that 640 extra farmers received training annually between 2020 and 2022.

One of these people was Eugenia Jimenez, a 62-year-old cocoa farmer working in Urabá (pictured main image). Thanks to the practical advice and insights shared via Maria’s tablets, Eugenia was able to expand cocoa production from 300kg a year to over 1,500 kg. This figure is likely to grow still further once new planting becomes productive. Eugenia has also shared her newfound knowledge with her family, including her grandchildren, who are interested in farming.

Significantly, the digital transformation in farms is spreading best practice across communities and generations, expanding digital literacy and cocoa farming education in female farmers, their families and the rural communities they live in.

Eugenia said “Participating in Luker’s workshops has been a game-changer for me. Over the past four years, I have learned so much and received valuable advice on how to properly maintain my crops. What’s more, the experience with the tablets has been a joy for my whole family. I learned how to use technology to improve my farming skills, and my grandchild taught me along the way. We all participated in the training sessions, and we learned how to identify and control pests and diseases. It has been a truly enriching experience that has made a significant impact on our lives.”

Maria Luisa has big plans for her digital education programmes in the future, “I plan to create a chatbot for WhatsApp and teach farmers how to use it and interact with it to receive real-time responses. Furthermore, I aim to create microsites or an app where farmers can find answers to urgent and specific situations.”

As Luker concluded, both women are leading the cocoa industry to a better future, using technological advancement to spread information on progressive cocoa growing for a better future for rural communities in Colombia.

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