Transforming Rural Communities with Mobile Data Collection

Since 1999, Root Capital—an organization committed to investing in the growth of agricultural enterprises—has been working closely with businesses that purchase crops from smallholder farmers, enabling more than just profitability; they’ve helped and continue to help create engines of impact that raise incomes, create jobs, empower women and young people, sustain peace and preserve vulnerable ecosystems around the world.

The Project’s Roots

The team uses iFormBuilder for their Mobile Advisory Services project, centered in Latin America, in Mexico, Columbia, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru.

Back in 2014, Root Capital realized that by using the appropriate technology, they would be able to more efficiently manage, analyze and act on information that would fill a key capacity gap for target agricultural businesses, especially those with specific certifications.

Cooperatives with these certifications, including Fair Trade, Organic, and others, must collect farmer-level information from suppliers on a yearly basis to maintain their statuses by passing certification body audits. In many cases, this data was collected using pen-and-paper-based surveys; requiring extensive time, duplicate manual efforts and leaving room for error.

Root capital reached out to Zerion to change this. They saw the benefits of offline data collection, sub-form management and user-friendliness as advantageous for their goals.

By putting iFormBuilder to work, these processes could be digitized. This process, including the management, analysis and visualization of this data in offline environments, encompasses what Root Capital’s team refers to as “Mobile Advisory Services”.

Farmers using iFormBuilder

Where it Stands Today

By 2018, the Mobile Advisory Services provided by Root Capital reached 33 businesses across Latin America—an estimated 20,000 farmers.

The services provided—using iFormBuilder as a base—help businesses digitize not only the data required for certification purposes, but also the data required for better decision making, including where to invest resources for technical assistance, which farmers to extend loans to and beyond.

The Root Capital Advisory team services trainers while helping cooperative staff design and program iFormBuilder surveys, create offline Excel-based dashboards to visualize and analyze the information collected and more.

This year, the team is expanding the solution to 250 users, most of whom are staff at the cooperative businesses that Root Capital supports. Internally, all levels, from back office technicians to Senior Leadership are involved in overseeing the project.

The Process

At a high level, data is collected by cooperative field staff and synced when an internet connection becomes available, with the iFormBuilder database. From here, a staff member in the main office performs quality control. When approved, the database is connected through Powerpivot/Powerquery to Excel, where custom tables and charts are created to summarize and visualize the data according to the key decisions the organization needs to make based on that data. The visuals are refreshed as new data becomes available and databases are updated.

Root Capital using iFormBuilder in the field