SEATTLE, Washington — TechnoServe, a nonprofit focused on eliminating global poverty through business solutions and utilizing technology in innovative ways to help farmers in 27 countries across the globe.
Created in 1968, TechnoServe has served the world’s poor with a mission to provide opportunities for all people to thrive and work toward a higher quality of life. TechnoServe works with approximately 300,000 farmers each year. Since its establishment, the organization has altered its practices to expand the reach of its impact.
TechnoServe’s primary means of promoting successful business for impoverished individuals working in agricultural industries, such as cashew and coffee farming, is training individuals in financing, efficiency and other helpful business practices. These training sessions cover important agricultural information, including knowledge about pest management, fertilization and harvesting, among others.
TechnoServe’s Training Programs
In an interview with The Borgen Project, Dave Hale, the Director of TechnoServe Labs, explained how TechnoServe’s training programs have evolved over time and for a variety of communities.
“Traditionally, we’ve done [training]via an in-person model. We would recruit a number of people, then we hold workshops over a period of weeks to train them on different business techniques,” said Hale.
As TechnoServe realized it could expand its reach further by using online learning platforms, the organization recruited Hale to identify and implement new training techniques focused on technology to eliminate poverty. Several of these technologies have already been put into effect. Apps like Canvas, WhatsApp and edX, all online-learning platforms, allow farmers to receive personalized training and access to relevant information more efficiently.
These technology-based programs are not always provided via smartphones and laptops to accommodate resource or connection restrictions that some populations face.
“We look at radio, we look at feature phones, we look at text-based phones and even posters as ways to distribute content. […] You have to look at technology much more broadly than just thinking about it as a smartphone or computer,” said Hale.
TechnoServe’s Technology Methods
Hale takes a unique approach when determining the most appropriate technology to serve each population of farmers. Rather than beginning with a solution in mind, TechnoServe aims to ensure its methods are successful by accommodating the backgrounds of those the organization is attempting to help. “Typically, solutions where you start immediately with the solution, not by understanding the users and what the real problems are, fail,” said Hale.
Hale also described a technology-focused resource that caters primarily to those providing training to farmers in impoverished countries. This resource uses Natural Language Processing to allow trainers to ask for certain information in a digital reference library.
“We want to make sure [trainers have]a consistent, solid base of information and all of those guys have smartphones. […] So, we just give them kind of a digital reference library in their pocket,” said Hale. All of these resources have helped local farmers and intend to continue to increase farmers’ incomes through more efficient business practices, further access to markets and financing opportunities.
This form of aid has helped many countries make strides away from poverty as economies continue to become more stable. “Generally, if a country has good food security, good economic security and a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, the economy tends to be more stable. Therefore, it’s more secure. It’s actually good in terms of decreasing conflict,” Hale said.
TechnoServe continues to apply a combination of business and technology to eliminate poverty across the globe in hopes of creating a brighter future for those in need.