La Botica Verde - Bridging the Supply Gap between Rural Organic Smallholders and a Growing Urban Demand

Organic products delivered straight to your door. No hassle, zero waste, supporting small producers for a healthier planet & people.

Photo of Michelle Berkowitz Sultan
24 46

Written by

I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • Spanish

Organization name

La Botica Verde

Year founded

2017

Initiative stage

  • Start-Up (a pilot that has just started operating)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $10k - $50k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 50 - 100

Organization type

  • Social enterprise

Secondary Focus Area

  • Water
  • Nutrition

Headquarters location: Country

  • Guatemala

Headquarters location: City

Antigua, Sacatepequez

Location(s) of impact

Guatemala: San Martin Jilotepeque, Jocotenango, San Juan Alotenango, San Miguel Dueñas, Santiago Sacatepequez, San Pedro las Huertas, Villa Canales..

Website

www.botica-verde.com

Facebook URL

https://www.facebook.com/laboticaverde1/

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

Despite growing demand for organic goods in Guatemalan urban centers, rural organic smallholders are not able to capitalize on this opportunity. This is due primarily to smallholders lacking: a) technical know-how, b) the ability to aggregate commodities, and c) connections to higher-paying buyers. This results in smallholders’ inability to supply individual and commercial markets with quality goods, week after week, which in turn results in producers earning less income and in local markets remaining underserved.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

Jose is a small producer from El Hato, Sacatepequez. He is a young worker renting ¼ of an acre that he is managing organically. When La Botica Verde found Jose, he was having trouble finding clients. La Botica Verde trained Jose and offered to buy his produce every week at a higher price than he was getting before. Jose was thrilled! Having access to a consistent market meant more time and resources to do what he loved: growing organic vegetables and teaching others in his community how to do it. La Botica Verde provides rural organic smallholders with access to local markets for increased income generation. We are a food distribution company that aggregates local, organic produce and delivers it to individuals and companies seeking high quality, healthy, and trustworthy ingredients. We work side by side with our producers to increase productivity and meet commercialization standards so that they may be able to reach urban markets willing to pay premium prices.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

This is our measured impact to date. Please note that we’ve only been operating for 6 months and are still in the process of establishing our monitoring and evaluation program. OUTPUTS Social - Local employment: 1 employee ($460 - working one day a week) - Income generation for associated producers: 20 producers ($3,620 total) - Access to organic foods: 40 clients who ordered at least once Environmental - Natural resource management (soil and water): TBD - Trash reduction: TBD - Biodiversity preservation: TBD Financial - Revenues: $6,850 - Customer acquisition: 40 customers - Customer retention: 62.5% OUTCOMES (Qualitative) - Health & nutrition: "For me, buying organic is important for my health. I realize that I don't see the benefits of it today, but as a cancer survivor, I'm reminded of the dangers of what we're putting into our bodies on a daily basis. I want to do what I can to make sure that I'm healthy today and in the future." - Mindy, Customer

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

1. Individual donations or gifts - $10k (personal contributions) 2. Grants - $50k 3. Earned income - $16-20k (year 1 revenues) 4. Other - $20k (debt) Our business is currently being financed by revenues generated from weekly orders and self-financing. In order to reach financial sustainability, we are seeking a combination of individual donations, grants, and debt. We do not have plans to finance the enterprise with equity in the short to medium term. We believe we would be able to break even around 100 orders a week (assuming no debt). If we expand to different markets (i.e selling to restaurants), we may be able to reach break even faster.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

La Botica Verde puts health first - the health of our clients, the health of our producers, and the health of our planet. We create a remarkable, trustworthy and liberating experience so our customers fall in love with our products and continue to place orders week after week. By leveraging technology, we provide a service that is convenient and easy to use. Most importantly, we build lasting relationships with our stakeholders to guarantee the long-term sustainability of our business.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

La Botica Verde was born out of a commitment to make the world a better place. Having grown up in Guatemala, it was impossible for us to turn a blind eye to the role that agriculture plays in our health, the health of farmers, and the health of our planet. What we eat directly affects the status of our health. How it’s grown directly impacts the well-being of producers. The way the landscape is cleared, the soil prepared, and the water used is all connected to our ecosystems. Ecosystems that we are a part of. When Giuliana Gobbato and I met, we were both rock climbers and avid land stewards. We decided to start La Botica Verde as a way to create healthy ecosystems in which all organisms can thrive.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Upon recommendation from others

Evaluation results

11 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 9.1%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 36.4%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 45.5%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 9.1%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

2. Innovation

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 63.6%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 27.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 9.1%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Social and/or Environmental Impact

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 27.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 45.5%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 27.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

4. Financial sustainability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 14.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 42.9%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 100%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

5. Potential to Scale / Replicability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 18.2%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 54.5%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 18.2%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 9.1%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

6. Organizational Leadership

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 18.2%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 18.2%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 63.6%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

7. Potential for Creating Shared Value

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 36.4%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 45.5%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 18.2%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

24 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Sebastian Gatica

Felicitaciones por la iniciativa! A ver si traemos la Botica Verde a Chile.
Saludos y suerte

Photo of Allison Archambault

This sounds like a great initiative. I was surprised to read that you haven't yet pursued the restaurant markets. Have you considered preparing any of the foods yourselves to deliver higher-value products to your customers? This is a model that is taking off in DC. (www.galleyfoods.com). I know that's quite a leap, and it already sounds like you're doing some important market making. Well done!

Photo of Ben Jeffreys

Great idea Michelle, keep it up

Photo of César Tzián

¡Excelente proyecto Michelle! :)

Photo of Sarah Sterling

Amazing project Michelle! Hope you are able to scale this and its impact throughout Guatemala and beyond!

Photo of Brian Bauer

Hello Michelle,
I have travelled in Guatemala on numerous occasions. Very amazing place, it is great to see someone like you doing the type of work you are doing. I would think another valuable market would be connecting high quality organic produce to higher end or health conscious restaurants around Lago Atitlán.

I work with a Chilean company (algramo.com) that has similarities to the work you are doing. We are similar in that my company is now working to connect food like dry beans to urban populations. But we sell our products to BoP consumers, not middle/upper income consumers. This makes some things more challenging as our consumers tend to be very price sensitive, but it also allows us to do really important and impactful work by connecting nearby food to low income customers in Chile's largest city, via a sustainable distribution system.

If you are interested in learning about Algramo and its network of 1,300 family owned convenience stores, that help us connect small holder food, with city residents, you can find my information at: "Algramo-Creating Sustainable Connections Between Smallholder Farmers & BoP Consumers"

Best of luck with your work, it has amazing impact potential in a very special place.

Brian

Photo of Michelle Berkowitz Sultan

Hi Brian Bauer ! Thank you so much for your comment and for believing in what La Botica Verde stands for. We also think there is a growing market around Lake Atitlán and have some interesting contacts that we're hoping to leverage in the near future.

Congratulations on Almagro! I absolutely love the idea. It is a sad reality that BoP consumers often pay higher prices for daily commodities because of the smaller, more expensive presentations. Not to mention the waste created by "one-time use" packaging.

I wish you all the best with your venture and please don't hesitate to reach out if you're ever in Guatemala. Perhaps one day you'll expand to the family owned convenience stores here? That would be fantastic!

Photo of Brian Bauer

Hi Michelle,
Thank you so much for your kind words and support of Algramo. You are also doing some very impactful work in Guatemala...Algramo hopes to eventually expand into new Latin American markets, so who knows, maybe one day Algramo will be in Guatemala...if so we will be sure to look you up. All the best to you and your project. Cheers, Brian

Photo of Suzanne Eskenasy

Great project Michelle Berkowitz Sultan congratulations. Wishing you much success!

Photo of Jonathan Litscher

Dear Michelle, congratulations on your efforts in linking smallholder farmers to larger markets. This is the key driver of rural development. You are only just starting out and are already showing great potential, wishing you all the best!

Photo of Michelle Berkowitz Sultan

Hi Jonathan Litscher ! Thank you so much for your comment. We also believe that this is a key driver of rural development and one that can incentivize more farmers to join the sustainable agriculture movement. By adopting a demand-driven approach, we're guaranteeing a constant, high-paying market that small producers wouldn't have access to otherwise. We have a ways to go but the business model appears to be working. Just months after launching, we've already completed more than 250 deliveries and are actively working with more than a dozen producers :)

Photo of Mirana Francoise Razafindramboa

Keep it up Michelle Berkowitz Sultan!

Photo of Michelle Berkowitz Sultan

Mirana Francoise Razafindramboa thanks!! <3

Photo of Juliane Castro Carneiro

Nice

Photo of Michelle Berkowitz Sultan

Juliane Castro Carneiro thanks!! <3

Photo of FOLO Farms Malaysia

After starting our own urban farm FOLO Farms Malaysia  to address similar issues, we would like to scale our impact by helping small rural farmers to have market access by becoming a trusted aggregator. We will be visiting these farmers in a few weeks, wish us luck! Very encouraged by your work!

Photo of Michelle Berkowitz Sultan

FOLO Farms Malaysia best of luck with the farm visits! Let us know how they go :)

Photo of Julie Curtis

This is a great initiative! Connecting the dots between the small farmers and the people who are willing to pay for quality food. Wishing you the best of luck!

One question, my organization works similarly to yours in that it works with out grower farmers who contribute to one product, in our case, moringa powder. Due to our moringa being grown in over 130 gardens rather than on one large farm, we are a bit daunted by the organic certification process. Have you looked into the process yourself?

Photo of Michelle Berkowitz Sultan

Hi Julie Curtis ! We have looked into it. Fortunately for us, local markets (with the exception of large supermarkets) do not require USDA organic certification so we don't expect our producers to have it in order to supply to us. We did, however, create our own auditing process to vet that the farms are growing organically. This is a free service that we've absorbed into operations because trust, between LBV and the producers and LBV and the clients, is essential to our business model. You could try to do a quick market assessment to determine if your markets require certification and if they don't, perhaps move towards a "seal of approval" that communicates to your clients that you have checked gardens and that the moringa is coming from a trustworthy source.

Hope that info helps! I wish you the best of luck with your venture!!

Photo of Michelle Berkowitz Sultan

Thank you Aaron Treves , Sebastian Africano ,  Karina Bautista & Mouhamadou Moustapha Seck for your support!

Photo of Mouhamadou Moustapha Seck

The idea of this exchange is very interesting and has many positive aspects to add value on both sides, that is, small organic farmers and growing urban demand.

Photo of Karina Bautista

You are addressing a problem that presents itself across all nations. Very well written and explained. Congrats.

Photo of Sebastian Africano

Properly valuing the services rural farmers provide as stewards of the environment is only possible by facilitating market access for them, ensuring that they are getting a proper price for quality produce. This business gets it and makes that link!

Photo of Aaron Treves

This business provides excellent solutions for both producers and consumers. Guatemala and our planet are both better for it!