Using CAM-equipped Mobile Phones for Procurement andQuality Control at a Rural Coffee Cooperative
Yael Schwartzman and Tapan S. ParikhDepartment of Computer Science and Engineering
University of Washington
ABSTRACTWith globalization, small rural producers must compete ina competitive economic market. Due to their small size andlimited financial capacity, they face significant challenges indoing so. We discuss the design and evaluation of two mobilephone based tools to help small producers achieve economiesof scale and a quality premium. These tools were deve-loped using CAM, a camera-based mobile phone applica-tion framework specifically designed for the rural developingworld. CAM DPS (Delivery Processing System) efficientlycaptures transactions between producers and cooperatives,in order to monitor remote inventory levels, and documentthe price paid to the producer. CAM RANDI (Representa-tion AND Inspection tool) allows local inspectors to digitallycapture the condition of farm parcels, using a combinationof paper, text, audio and images. Using this data, ruralproducer cooperatives can improve their efficiency and mon-itoring, and ensure conformance with quality and certifica-tion standards. A preliminary evaluation suggests that theseapplications are accessible to target users and will serve asignificant need.
Keywordsmobile phones, paper user interface, rural development, ICT,cooperatives, agriculture
1. INTRODUCTIONWith globalization, small rural producers must compete in
an increasingly competitive economic market. Due to theirsmall size and limited financial capacity, they face significanttechnical and operational challenges in doing so. Deficits ininfrastructure and planning capacity increase their transac-tion costs when compared to larger producers. To coun-teract this, small producers can try to avail a quality orbrand advantage by highlighting specialized productiontechniques (such as organic or bird-friendly cultivation), ge-ographic specialization and social capital. However, thelack of physical infrastructure, enforceable production stan-dards and efficient marketing channels limit these advan-tages, causing small producers to continue to sell at com-modity prices.
The global coffee market is an acute example. Coffee isnow the second most traded commodity in the World - trail-ing only petroleum. However, rural small producers have not
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benefited from the increase in coffee trade and consumption.One reason is a corresponding increase in production. In theearly 1990s, Vietnam started producing coffee. Coincidingwith an increase in Brazilian coffee production, the marketwas flooded, and worldwide coffee prices fell sharply. As aresult, growers in Latin America, facing higher productioncosts (but growing better coffee), were decimated .
Responding to this crisis, there have been several effortsto help small coffee farmers around the World earn a livingwage, and capitalize their quality advantage and sustainablegrowing practices.
Fair Trade: Fair Trade certification seeks to improvethe living condition of marginalized producers by creatingconsumer awareness, promoting change in trading practicesand empowering producers to play a larger role in the mar-keting and sale of coffee . Certifying agencies monitorproducer organizations labor and environmental practices.Coffee farmers are guaranteed a minimum price of $1.26per pound, or $0.05 above the current international mar-ket price, whichever is higher. Fair Trade also encouragesthe establishment of direct relationships between coffee im-porters, roasters and producers.
Organic Agriculture: According to the InternationalFederation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), or-ganic agriculture is an attempt to sustain and enhance thehealth of ecosystems and organisms from the smallest in the
soil to human beings . Actual requirements for growingorganic produce vary from country to country. One priorityis on reducing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.Organic certification agencies perform farm inspections toassure quality and prevent fraud.
Bird-friendly: Bird-friendly certification ensures thatnative shade trees are retained on coffee parcels, prevent-ing sun damage and soil erosion and providing shelter tomigratory birds that in turn are a natural insecticide .Originally, all coffee was shade grown, until a sun-resistanthybrid was developed to maximize the amount of cultivableland. This hybrid has replaced 17% to 69% of the total co-ffee cultivation in different countries, severely impacting themigratory bird population. Bird-friendly certification wasintroduced in 1996 to address this problem.
The idea behind each of these certifications is that con-sumers will pay a premium for certified products meetingethical and environmental standards. However, monitoring- ensuring that producers are conforming to standards, andmarketing - conveying the story behind the certification,are both significant challenges faced by these and similarefforts.
Figure 1: Barillas from the sky
1.1 Mobile Phones and CAMMobile phones, due to their small size, affordability, fami-
liarity, wireless connectivity and limited power consumption,present an ideal hardware platform for rural conditions. Mo-bile phones have already been demonstrated to improve themarket performance of small rural producers in some con-texts .
CAM is a mobile phone software platform for rural devel-oping world applications . Supporting minimal, paper-based navigation, a simple scripted programming model andoff-line multimedia interaction, CAM is uniquely suited forrural computing requirements. Users navigate CAM appli-cations by capturing bar-codes printed on paper forms usingthe mobile phones built-in camera, or by entering numericstrings. Forms-based data entry is extremely common inthe developing world. CAMForm analogs of existing paperforms serve as offline clients for CAM applications. CAMprovides an API for accessing the mobile phones user in-terface, networking and multimedia capabilities. Data canbe transferred immediately when the phone has a networkconnection, or later, using asynchronous (SMS, MMS ande-mail) and/or physical networking protocols.
We have developed, evaluated and deployed a CAM appli-cation for capturing data from microfinance groups in ruralIndia . In this paper, working with Asobagri, a coffeecooperative based in Barillas, Guatemala, we discuss thedesign and evaluation of two CAM applications for auto-mating procurement and farm monitoring at a rural coffeeproducer cooperative.
1.2 Asobagri: The Coffee CooperativeAsobagri was founded in 1989 in Barillas (Figure 1), a city
in the Guatemalan highlands with a population of aboutten thousand people. Barillas is accessible only by unpavedroad, helicopter or small airplane. The nearest major cityis Huehuetenango, 8 hours away on the local bus. Barillasurban zone has cellular coverage and Internet access.
Asobagri is a producer/exporter cooperative. Namely,Asobagri is responsible from soil care and seeding until theoro (unroasted coffee beans) leaves the port on its way to oneof their five customers in North America, Europe and Japan.Asobagris coffee carries four different international certifi-cations: FLO Internationals Fair Trade certification, OCIA
Internationals Organic certification, JAS Organic certifica-tion and Bird-friendly certification.
Asobagris main goals are to provide market access toover 800 small coffee producers of the Barillas region, su-pport education amongst its members, ensure farmers a liv-ing wage (in accordance with Fair Trade) and to promotemaintenance and respect for the environment. The staffthat work at Asobagris office are primarily college-educated.The coffee producers themselves live in the remote, moun-tainous areas around Barillas, where there is often no elec-tricity or phone coverage. Many are illiterate. In somevillages, many family members have moved to the UnitedStates (perhaps illegally) in order to provide additional in-come for their family.
We have designed, developed and evaluated two prototypeCAM applications for automating Asobagris procurementand farm monitoring processes. The first application, CAMDPS (Delivery Processing System), allows the cooperativeto accurately and efficiently capture coffee deliveries andpayments to farmers, even in a mobile context or in areaswith limited infrastructure and connectivity. The secondapplication, CAM RANDI (Representation AND Inspectiontool), allows farm parcel inspectors to gather multimediadata based on a multiple-choice questionnaire. The resultsare used to monitor production techniques and compliancewith certification requirements.
The rest of the paper is organized as follows: Section 2discusses related work. Section 3 presents the design, evalu-ation and current status of the prototype CAM DPS appli-cation. Section 4 presents the design, evaluation and currentstatus of the prototype CAM RANDI application. Section5 discusses plans for future work and concludes.
2. RELATED WORKIn this section we discuss previous IT systems that ad-
dress agricultural procurement, extension, inspection, certi-fication and marketing in a developing world context.
2.1 ProcurementAgricultural procurement refers to the collection and pro-
cessing of deliveries from individual producers. Akashgangais a project that automates the milk collection process atdairy cooperatives in India . A digital scale is connectedto a PC that maintains local transaction records and printspayment slips. The Warana Wired Village project imple-mented a system for sugar cane farmers in the state of Ma-harashtra, India . Farmers are equipped with smartcardsallowing them to register their property, obtain permits, pro-cess payments, access their funds and purchase fertilizer at54 PC-based village information kiosks. eChoupal is anotherIndian effort implemented by ITC-IBD, the agri-business di-vision of ITC. By visiting the eChoupal information kiosk,farmers can find out the current price of soy at various mar-kets and, if they choose, sell directly to a local ITC-IBDrepresentative reducing their transaction costs and maxi-mizing their revenue. JAMEX is a network of chill centersdistributed across Jamaica . Chill centers are procure-ment and storage locations for farmer-supplied produce. Anintegrated IT solution coordinates delivery, storage, trans-port and sales to customers.
2.2 ExtensionAgricultural extension refers to the transfer of agricultural
(and other) knowledge to farmers through various kindsof communication and learning activities. Finctrac imple-mented a system in Honduras where extension workers wereequipped with a GPS device, laptop, digital camera, portableprinter, cell phone, portable weather station and a floppydisk drive . Extensionists are able to access location-specific agricultural information, provide immediate techni-cal advice to farmers and track their extension activities.AGIS is a PC-based system implemented in South Africathat allows extension workers to access a geo-referenced databasewith physical, social and economic information essential toagricultural planning and decision making. An electronicquestion and answer system to allow extensionists to com-municate with agricultural scientists and researchers is indevelopment . eSagu is a research system developedat IIIT Hyderabad. Extension workers are equipped witha digital camera to document farm conditions and currentproblems . Using a PC-based kiosk, they submit text andimage reports to agricultural experts at a central location.Later, they download advice to be conveyed back to farmers.
2.3 Inspection, Certification and Marketinge-cert is a commercial field monitoring and certification
system using a Tablet PC to perform field inspections .A separate database application provides for the creationof inspection templates, scheduling of inspections and ma-nagement of data. A group of UK food retailers developedthe Social and Economic Development Exchange (SEDEX),a web-based tool used to track and audit labor standardsalong the wine, fruit and cut-flower supply chain . AC-TRES is another web-based system that allows flower grow-ers to share information about their water and energy con-sumption, use of fertilizers and waste generation . Thisis used to ensure compliance with certification requirements,and for growers to track their own use of natural resources.QualCheck captures quality assurance data during the pro-cessing, packaging, storage, distribution and serving of foodand agricultural products . Utzkapeh, an independentcertifier of ethical and sustainable coffee, has developed itsown web-based system to track certified coffee through thesupply chain from producers to consumers . Anacafe,Guatemalas coffee trade association, has developed a webportal to document the geographic specialization of coffeegrowing regions and to provide an Internet presence for smallcoffee producing organizations .
3. CAM DPS: DELIVERY PROCESSING SYS-TEM
3.1 Current Delivery ProcessDuring harvesting season, producers bring their coffee quin-
tales to the Asobagri office to receive their payment check.When the office opens at 8AM, there is often a line of farm-ers waiting with their coffee. They would have started thearduous journey from their villages hours earlier, sometimeseven the previous day.
Before producers can receive payment for their coffee,they have to go through several steps, illustrated in Figure2. First, the producers need to register in a paper note-book, and wait until the person in charge of data entry isready to enter their information in the computer. An Excelspreadsheet is used to record producer deliveries and pay-ment amounts. After this information is entered, the coffees
Figure 2: Asobagris delivery process flow chart
Figure 3: Configuration of Asobagris delivery pro-cessing desk
weight and humidity is checked. This is also entered in thespreadsheet. The producers log book is stamped, indica-ting the deliverys weight and net price to be paid to theproducer. Finally, a payment slip is printed. The producertakes the payment slip upstairs to the accounting depart-ment and waits to receive his check.
Meanwhile, a second identification slip is handwritten, thecoffee quintal is sewn shut and the identification slip is at-tached to it. This label provides a way to know, for eachquintal of coffee, what kind of coffee it contains and whichproducer and land parcel it came from. When the coffee islater organized into lots and shipping containers for export,the entire lot is identified solely by the lot number - indi-cating the source coop (Asobagri), state (Huehuetenango),and a categorization of the coffee based on the altitude whereit was grown (hard, semi-hard or strictly hard). The coo-perative internally maintains a record of...