Ingenios and suppliers innovate with the support of the PAT

Informative Letter brings in this edition the experience of the hacienda Venecia - El Cencerro, supplier of sugarcane, and of the sugar mill La Cabaña with the Learning and Technical Assistance program, which allows the adoption and implementation of new technologies.

Jorge Díaz is thirty-seven years old and for eleven years he has worked as a field assistant at the hacienda Venecia - El Cencerro, located between Villarrica and Jamundí, on the banks of the Cauca River. In recent months, he has become almost an expert in what he and his co-workers have dubbed the 'larveo', which consists of taking stalks of a kind following a certain direction. 

In technical jargon this same practice is known as sampling, and in this specific case it is used to determine the level of damage to stem borers.

According to Jorge, he and his other twenty-one companions are perfectly trained in the 'larveo': "If they ask us to identify a dead heart, we are ready to respond," he says without hesitation. But that attitude of competition does not only touch on issues of plant health. They can also speak appropriately about irrigation work, volume measurements and water catchment, and even agroecological zoning. 

“Cenicaña has told us that the farm is 10H5. We did the exercise and, indeed, we verified that it belongs to that agro-ecological zone, ”says Jorge.

The acquisition and appropriation of new knowledge in the daily chores of the farm have been the purpose of the Learning and Technical Assistance Program (PAT) led by Cenicaña, which is being fulfilled thanks to the effort and commitment of mills, growers, farm administrators and workers. 

“On the farm they had been doing the same tasks that are done in the center of the Valley; But with site-specific agriculture training (AEPS®) we receive the basis to make the right decisions and with arguments. For example, we already know why we need a normal subsoil in this situation or why we need a topographical subsoil in another ”, says Marco Antonio García, administrator of the farm, supplier of the La Cabaña sugar mill.

The same happened with technologies such as the water balance. On the farm they already had the software but it only operated with the information from the rain gauges. After Marco Antonio trained as a facilitator and taught his workers how to do it correctly, they began to take data on flows and catchment, increased the rain gauges to seven, and on Fridays they perform a survey on all the lots to compare with the water balance.

Not everything is easy

Of course, implementing these changes has not been easy. In Venice - El Cencerro they faced resistance from butlers and workers with many years of experience, who refused to change their old practices for new technologies or introduce improvements in their work. 

The solution was to rely on workers with a greater sense of belonging and leadership to help those staff who are reluctant to adopt and appropriate the new knowledge accept its benefits. Jorge was one such leader.

“The trainings have been very good, excellent. It fascinates me to go and then share what I have learned with my colleagues ”, he says.  

The ingenuity experience

Behind the work of adoption and appropriation of technologies like the one carried out in the hacienda Venecia - El Cencerro there is also a determined management and support of the mills, who know that the PAT will not show immediate results, but that this is part of the process to achieve in the future higher productions at lower costs. 

The sugar mill La Cabaña has understood it that way; hence its commitment to the Learning and Technical Assistance Program.

According to Francisco Chaves, head of the mill's supply, “the key has been to turn the PAT into an organization policy: the general manager got involved, the direct boss got involved and we all took the PAT as a guide for the training program of ingenuity. That way we would not have parallel training activities and we had the permanent support of Cenicaña ”.

Another strategy of the mill is to adapt the workshops or activities to the conditions of the suppliers, explains Carlos Correa, technical assistant of the mill: "A good start to the training day guarantees us fifty percent of success," he says, and adds: “That's why we started by telling you, for example, that 1% infestation with Diatraea generates a ton of losses: it's $ 60.000, compared to a control that costs $ 27.000. With that the supplier is already convinced of its benefits and of the need to adopt it ”. 

The other fifty percent is achieved with the accompaniment that is carried out one by one. According to Francisco Chaves, "in this way each supplier adopts the technologies gradually and we manage to see the changes and the good results of innovating with knowledge". 

(Left) Jorge Díaz, worker at the hacienda Venecia - El Cencerro. (Right) Carlos Correa, from the La Cabaña sugar mill, during a training session on Administrative Control of Irrigation in June of last year.

PAT progress

Last March, Cenicaña carried out training activities for facilitators in ´Evaluation of borer damage Diatraea spp. and its control ', which was attended by one hundred and thirty-four professionals from six mills.

In the second semester of this year, trainings are scheduled in 'Soil preparation for sugar cane' and 'Recognition of diseases'.


I want to congratulate Cenicaña and all the collaborators of the mills who made possible the implementation of the Learning and Technical Assistance Program, PAT. His philosophy breaks the traditional information dissemination schemes and focuses on structuring different topics of interest based on the knowledge and demands of the target audience, thereby establishing not a monologue, but an interrelation between attendees and facilitators, which results in the appropriation of ideas and technologies that facilitate their adoption in an effective way.

For the La Cabaña sugar mill, the PAT is an important training and technology transfer strategy for both direct management and sugarcane supply personnel. 

This program has allowed topics that were the patrimony of a group to become general knowledge, thereby achieving greater participation in the preparation and application of strategic plans and field control, with the consequent increase in productivity.

With this policy, the mill-supplier-Cenicaña relationship has been strengthened and the ground has been paved to establish a process of continuous improvement and meet increasingly demanding goals. 

Gustavo Medina
Production manager. Ingenio La Cabaña




Information letter
3 Year / 1 Number / July of 2015

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