Smallholder Coffee Farmers' Digital Marketplace

Smallholder Coffee Farmers' Digital Marketplace

El SalvadorSan Salvador, El Salvador
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

An innovative ICT program that provides a level playing field for smallholder coffee farmers by increasing access to the international sustainable coffee market. We are developing a digital marketplace to strengthen coffee supply chains and enhance Rainforest Alliance (RA) certification programs.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

There are presently 16,750 smallholder coffee farmers in El Salvador. Only 704 farms are RA certified. The agencies responsible for certification are using outdated technologies, and smallholder farmers are operating at a disadvantage. Smallholders need access to the most beneficial markets, while certification agencies need tools to cost-effectively certify farmers without decreasing standards and undermining the credibility of certification.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our solution is an innovative cloud-based digital marketplace that assists both smallholders and the agencies responsible for certification. We are implementing a pilot application for 704 RA certified coffee farms in El Salvador. The digital marketplace creates real time access to price and quality information in a virtual market. It employs visual tools to showcase and promote smallholders' coffee. Striking visuals and up-to-date information on harvest, quality and production methods are used to inform buyers. The application includes a monitoring tool that streamlines the Sustainable Agriculture Network's (SAN) RA certification program and provides powerful data analysis and visual tools like interactive maps, graphs, and photos.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The application provides access to markets and partnership opportunities. The certifier uses the app to monitor the status of farm certification. Certified farmers update production data via SMS messaging or through RA certifiers. It offers buyers a central location to find suppliers, and multilingual functionality permits int'l interactions. Buyers will have sufficient information for decision making and advertising. Roasters will use the marketplace to locate suppliers. The SAN will monitor data to identify weaknesses and opportunities. The monitoring and evaluation of farms will be more efficient. Price and quality data will no longer be months behind. Buyers and smallholders will be exchanging real time price and coffee quality data.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

We differentiate ourselves from others by offering real-time market, buyer and seller data. Price, quality and farm history can be easily accessed by both buyers and producers. Unlike others, we are taking a comprehensive approach to smallholder coffee production in El Salvador. We see the problem as being one primarily of market, NGO, and various agency efficiency. Our technological services will greatly ameliorate this problem and make the certification and coffee marketing process much better.
About You
Proyecto La Cumbre
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Project
Organization Name

Proyecto La Cumbre

Organization Country

, SS, San Salvador

Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

Less than a year

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Your Solution
Founding Story: Share a story about the “Aha!” moment that led you to get started and/or to see the potential for this to succeed.

My colleague, Matthew Stringer, and I served in the Peace Corps. During those two years in the Peace Corps, I lived on a coffee plantation and learned about the social realities of the coffee trade. Matthew and I have returned to El Salvador to develop monitoring and evaluation web applications for NGOs. While meeting with SalvaNATURA, a Salvadoran NGO, we learned about their certification programs. The director of SalvaNATURA and the SAN, requested an innovation for their certification program. We developed this ICT innovation. We knew that SalvaNATURA, a founding member or the SAN, would be able to provide expertise and access to the SAN. This was clearly an opportunity to create a powerful tool with the potential to scale globally.

Select Sector(s): To which of Unilever's categories of sustainability does your solution apply?

Sustainable Agriculture, Smallholder Farmers.

Measurable Impact
Audience: Who have you identified as your customers/recipients and why? How will you get your solution to them or engage them in your initiative?

The initial beneficiaries are the 16,750 smallholders in El Salvador. The SAN, a regional network of NGOs who have certified 80,000 farms in 26 countries, will also benefit. Working with the SAN provides clear governance structures through which rules governing quality standards, payment, and risk management are present as well as effective social intermediaries that provide commercial and developmental value. The SAN provides access to massive amounts of data and thousands of certified farms.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date and expected impact in the future?

We are currently implementing a pilot application in El Salvador that will benefit 704 coffee farmers and communities.
The Unilever grant will allow us to expand the program, representing 16,750 Salvadoran farmers that produce annually 513k quintal (100 pounds) of coffee. RA certification is a value add of 2% to 8% per quintal, increasing price from $238 to between $244 to $258 USD per quintal. Full implementation will result in between a $2 million to $10 million USD increase in total coffee producer revenue under current market conditions. Market demand for RA certified is growing, and we expect it will outpace our increased supply from new certified farms. Market success will incentivize producers to become certified, further diffusing associated sustainable farming practices. The brand name, customer relations, and goodwill of Salvadoran RA certified coffee will be strengthened

Growth, Finance & Leadership
Scaling the Solution: How do you intend to scale your activities over the next two years (e.g., reach new markets, diversify solutions, etc.)? What will make this possible?

We estimate that €10,000 will cover the costs of implementation in El Salvador. Should we be selected for the €50,000, the additional €40,000 will be used to replicate the project in other coffee markets in Central and South America. The SAN is made up of 80,000 farms in 26 countries. We will use the SAN to launch throughout Latin America. We will leverage RA and SAN social and farming networks to launch a high profile international marketing campaign. The cloud based nature of this innovation lends itself to scalability.

Financial Sustainability: What is your business model to ensure financial sustainability?

As we expand to Central and South America, certification agencies will pay program implementation costs. To guarantee sustainability, we will charge farmers and buyers a marketplace user fee. User fees ensure that smallholders are actively acquiring a stake in the success of the project. The extensive network of 80,000 SAN certified farms should allow us to charge low fees while ensuring financial sustainability.

Experience: Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

During highschool a friend and I started a business selling erosion prevention fences to construction companies. We built an automated assembly line that required only two people to assemble 35 meter rolls of fence.
8 months ago Matt Stringer and I founded Proyecto La Cumbre, a small software development company devoted to helping NGOs track aid data. We have been working with international development agencies and NGOs to improve our services.