Manos al Agua-IWM pioneers use of cutting-edge software tool to improve coffee farming in Colombia


Within the framework of the most ambitious environmental project in Colombia, Manos al Agua-Intelligent Water Management (IWM) is implementing a spatial analysis software tool that makes decision-making easier in participatory scenarios and enables to develop and explore options to manage and evaluate possible impacts of activities undertaken by projects like IWM.

It is QUICKScan, a tool developed by Alterra (Wageningen Environmental Research, in the Netherlands), which supports evaluation of social, economic and environmental conditions by quickly implementing the alternatives proposed by a group of experts, who participate in solving a problem by building participatory knowledge. This model combines the expertise of professionals with spatial and statistical information.

This tool offers the possibility to combine different aspects and understand situations that have an impact on economic, social and environmental conditions of the regions.

Manos al Agua-IWM is a relevant actor to spread the use of QUICKScan, as the project is the element of departure to implement it in the coffee institutions.

The first phase of QUICKScan took place at the Wageningen University, in the Netherlands, in November 2015, in which different forms of use of the tool were identified taking into account demands and needs of the coffee sector. Themes such as impact of climate variability on productivity and different types of management that affect water quality and quantity, among others, were addressed.

The second phase of QUICKScan was held in Bogotá, Colombia, at the headquarters of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) from February 23 to 25, 2016. On this occasion, several experts from different areas or branches of the FNC, such as IWM, SIC@, strategic management, and Cenicafé were called, as well as other actors, like the Wageningen University.

Beatriz Rodríguez, IWM coordinator in Valle del Cauca and present at the work session in Bogota, said: “QUICKScan is a tool that enables the IWM staff to integrate variables and see results, with an unthinkable easiness, of farms intervened. It is a user-friendly tool, which takes into account the countryside’s reality and has impacts in the field.”

Jaime Baena, IWM coordinator in Caldas, pointed out that “QUICKScan enables you to observe the social and production dimensions in an integrated way, i.e., what’s happening with water quantity and quality, generational change, and climate, among others.”

The working session was also attended by Peter Verweij, researcher of Alterra WUR, who said that the meeting was “a unique experience to generate important data to have a wide overview and full context of coffee growers and determine those aspects that help improve their quality of life.”

Manuel Winograd, Alterra WUR advisor, said that “IWM is a good opportunity to feed data and scale them to the reality of the software.”

Presentation of QUICKScan variables.

The challenge ahead is important; a third phase of implementation of QUICKScan comes. Martha Córdoba, SIC@ and SIG specialist, said “It is difficult to think in all possible variables in any field and see how everything changes in the production chain, and it is good to see how this contributes to make decisions accurately.”

Manos al Agua-IWM is becoming a pioneer and replicable model in all fields, from its technological innovation to its day-to-day interaction with coffee growers to contribute to a sustainable coffee sector.

Peter Verweij, exposing conclusions of the meeting
Peter Verweij, exposing conclusions of the meeting