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The project emerged as a response from a family dedicated to agriculture that, for many years, had to work extensively throughout the months to obtain products. When they arrived to the traditional market or central supply center, the oversupply generated by having only one marketing channel and the concentration of harvest in the region caused the fruit of their work to lead to losses. The producers requested credits from specialized agriculture banks; due to bad business results, they could not pay and were left with big debts and commitments. As a result, the producers decreased their cultivations. In addition, the new generations did not want to participate in the traditional business and migrated to the cities, leaving a population of older adults in the Colombian countryside.
The project benefits mothers who are heads of household, families, and young people who did not see in the country an opportunity either to get ahead or to have a stable job. As such, it is a proposal that bets on the Colombian countryside for equity and a concept of justice in business.
The innovation and impact that the project is causing among the women farmers of the municipality of Boyaca made Comproagro one of the winning initiatives of the RECON Peace in Motion award, which rewards citizen initiatives that promote peace and reconciliation in Colombia.
The initiative emerged through the Colombian government's APPS.CO program. The Vergara family, in particular Mrs. Rosalba and her children Ginna and Brian, developed the project with a vision to improve the quality of life and well-being of initially Mrs. Rosalba and her family and by extension other peasant families in the country. In the process they received support for 8 months in order to consolidate the proposal, after which the business has developed autonomously.
The platform "eliminates intermediaries in the process of buying and selling agricultural products and the power of the collection centers to become a platform that brings together small farmers and allows them to reach different markets and customer types" using practices of collaborative work, reduction of costs by union, improvement in product quality from the orientation of specialized markets, management of fair price policies, and sale of mass products to big areas.
Comproagro is the business idea of Gina Alejandra Jimenez, a 16-year-old girl who, together with her family—all farmers from Toca-Boyaca—decided to bet on a solution that would allow them and the other producers in their region to stop losing utilities because of the different intermediaries involved in the marketing process, who, according to this business model, are left with the highest percentage of profit, which significantly affects the work and quality of life of the farmers. Comproagro provides a kind of free market of agricultural products that allows farmers to upload photos of their products so that buyers can buy them directly, without intermediaries.
This idea was born in 2014 and consists in a web platform that connects, for free, producers with their final consumers and with institutional clients, who carry out direct purchase and sale transactions by eliminating part of the intermediary chain and improve their incomes. The proposal was to connect the country with technology.
Additionally, Comproagro.com developed a collection center that gives added value to the products of hundreds of small Boyaca farmers, allowing them to sell products wholesale in department stores such as Exito and Surtifruver and supermarkets, among others. This provides them products of the region with which they can ensure a constant supply and avoid being affected by crop cycles.
The use of the platform is totally free for users who use the intermediation, but when specialized clients are employed and the services of the collection center are used, they improve the product and charge a commission. Currently, the platform has more than 8,500 users nationwide, with more than 350 product varieties. There are approximately 3,500 buyers and more than 5,000 small producers.
The process of commitment starts with contact with the small producers where the service is offered. Later, the youngest members of the family are trained to understand how the new technologies work so that they can register their family’s products in the digital platform; then an interested client who is looking for the product being offered, who could be in another region of the country, can directly contact said producer, becoming part of a new marketing channel.
The project arose, in the words of its creator: “For a long time I saw my mom work many hours in the country to give us study, but often it was not enough to support the family and it was her turn to look for jobs elsewhere. We should be able to live from what we cultivate,” explained Alejandra. “To solve this problem, I took advantage of a training that the Ministry of Technology took to the town and learned to create a web page to develop a mechanism that would commercialize the products that they produced.” Thus was born Comproagro.com.
The creators dreamed of improving the dignity of the world’s farmers through the support they can give for direct purchase and good payment for the quality of the products, breaking bad practices in the market, where this is the main victim. It is expected that before the growth and dissemination of the technology, it will be possible to eliminate the power of the supply centers to achieve fair markets.
A return to the countryside is also desired, where new generations can prepare themselves but all the knowledge acquired can return to the field and boost its growth in a fair and equitable way.
The platform has an impact that can be seen in several aspects. First, it improves the income of small producers by 10% to 20% according to the product and the season. It dignifies the jobs of rural women by giving work options close to home and allowing them to care for their children, dedicating themselves to the aforementioned tasks to add value to the products. In addition, the payment for the products is in cash, which improves the cash flow of the producers and avoids the unnecessary payment of interest. It allows the producers to specialize in their products, delegating the necessary functions of marketing to Comproagro, and allows new generations (digital natives) the possibility of seeing agriculture as an interesting sector, where new technologies can be applied and positive economic results are seen. This helps in overcoming resistance to sector change, since young people are not so subject to the traditions of the process.
In terms of growth, the platform began in 2015 with three linked, all family. It has grown by more than 220% in sales volumes to date, linking more than 5,000 producers in the country.
The benefits for the different actors are:
So far, the company has given work to 18 mothers who are heads of families and hopes to continue growing. They are also financing a group of young researchers (four engineering students and a veterinarian) to find better agricultural practices that would allow them to have organic crops and train the farmers in the area in food management. This is where they will invest the $5 million that they won in the RECON contest. (https://www.elespectador.com/noticias/paz/los-jovenes-motor-de-innovacion-agricola-articulo-626115).
Some of the benefits already mentioned can be summarized as follows: growth of 10% to 20% in the incomes of the producers, diversification of the portfolio of the region, and elimination of the chain of intermediaries.
The social impact includes the employment of mothers who are heads of household, improvement in the conditions of the producers, the connection of new generations in the chain of the business of their parents, and a change in production processes leading to the use of good agricultural practices and even the production of organic food, and therefore better land management and elimination of chemical inputs.
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Rosalba Vergara, Ginna Alejandra Jiménez Vergara, Brayan Fernando Jiménez Vergara, Comproagro.com
At Toca-Boyaca, a place whose vocation is purely agricultural, appeared an idea from the hand of small producers. It consists of using digital technologies to create an online commercial platform for their products, called Comproagro.com.
The project emerged as a response from a family dedicated to agriculture that, for many years, had to work extensively throughout the months to obtain products. When they arrived at the traditional market or central supply center, the oversupply generated by having only one marketing channel and the concentration of harvest in the region caused the fruit of their work to lead to losses. The producers requested credits in specialized agriculture banks; due to bad business results, they could not pay and were left with big debts and commitments. This resulted in the producers decreasing their cultivations; in addition, the new generations did not want to participate in the traditional business and migrated to the cities, leaving a population of older adults in the Colombian countryside.
The project benefits mothers who are heads of household, families, and young people who did not see in the country an opportunity either to get ahead or to have a stable job. It thus has become a proposal that bets on the Colombian countryside for equity and a concept of justice in business.
The innovation and impact that the project is having among the women farmers of the municipality of Boyaca made Comproagro one of the winning initiatives of the RECON Peace in Motion award, which rewards citizen initiatives that promote peace and reconciliation in Colombia.