In the almost 13 years of Sistema.bio, we have learned a couple of things: 1) The future of farming is female. Most of our promoters and technicians on the field are female, 2) Farmers and our workforce deserve high-quality technology and world-class services, 3) You need to connect to people’s hearts, education, and culture.
That connection brought by women’s empowerment impacts way outside of just energy, climate change, or agriculture; it is the most important thing we can do. Sistema.bio has long recognized that women are the most frequent users of biodigesters within their households, and are primarily responsible for operating the biogas and using it as their daily fuel for cooking. But not only that! Within the company, a report done by the Energy and Environment Partnership Trust Fund (EEP Africa) and Value For Women about a Pilot done in 2019 in Kenya, with the support of AlphaMundi Foundation, showed that although data demonstrated that our women sales agents were facing several gender-specific challenges, they closed sales more rapidly and with fewer follow-up customer engagements than men, speaking to the efficiency with which women agents work once they are able to reach customers.
That is why we can not miss the opportunity that this year the International Women’s Day theme is DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality to talk about Sistema.bio’s close work with TaroWorks and the multiple benefits this collaboration has brought in the constant work to implement innovative tools in the company that help promote gender equality inside and out.
Sistema.bio got started in 2010 with the idea of creating value from waste. The innovative biodigester technology, training, and financing that the company provides seeks to address the challenges of poverty, food security, and climate change. Sistema.bio now operates globally working on over 53,200 farms around the world in 31 countries. The biogas and the powerful biofertilizer that result in the animal’s manure transformation inside the biodigesters, translate into social and environmental benefits such as cash savings and income generation, health benefits, time savings, clean cooking, better soil and harvests, reduction of carbon emissions, and many more! All these benefits actually are strongly linked to many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
All the data collection and systematization, GPS location of farms, and impact tracking were a challenge when Sistema.bio first started. It was all done in a very rustic way with pen and paper, then by inventing data systems and spreadsheets as the company grew and scaled, but it was not quite enough. Fortunately, in 2013, TaroWorks came along to help solve some of these issues.
TaroWorks is a mobile CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and field service app directly integrated into Salesforce, that provides offline mobile data collection, analyzes metrics, and manages fieldwork in real time. The company was launched by the Grameen Foundation in 2013, TaroWorks has now reached more than 150 social enterprises and nonprofit organizations across 60+ countries, supporting over 330,000 micro-entrepreneurs and improving the lives of over 12 million of the world’s poor. Their mission is to make the last mile as easy as the first by not accepting that organizations working in remote areas should settle for inferior technology.
TaroWorks and Sistema.bio collaboration consists in a comprehensive CRM tool that connects the field team, the central offices, and the manufacturing plants. The offline CRM enhances the flow of data to support business operations and help field agents that are accustomed to working in areas without reception, to conduct their field activities on their mobile devices, access the latest information from the central databases, review payments history, and record their visits to their customers. All the collected data is visualized in dashboards that show the sales progress and installation goals for strategic decision-making in real time.
For more than seven years, several field sales agents and officers have benefited from using TaroWorks in the last mile operations; however, the Sistema.bio team has learned that the use of the app has enabled conditions to empower our female sales agents and technicians.
Madrin Maina, Kenya’s Country Director, said “the app became vital in growing our teams and numbers. If someone is selling a biodigester far away from a field office, they do not have to travel all the way to the office to exchange information. It means we are able to operate remotely and do more work. TaroWorks brought to Sistema.bio an option to work on the field without the necessity of internet connection and gender differences in technology usage.”
As a company focused on innovation and impact, Sistema.bio has from its beginning operated under the scope of gender equality and inclusion. With a direct impact on women as farmers and end-users of the biodigesters as well as women in the workforce. The following cases from women agents in Mexico and Kenya are great examples of the efforts Sistema.bio is trying to make to become a leader in the area of gender inclusion. The company knows for a fact that Esmeralda and Rosaisela from the sales team in Mexico and Emmy and Veronica from the TechOps team in Kenya, are women who have poured their heart and soul into finding the best solutions for their teams and clients.
Therefore, we want to share with you the stories of four of our members:
Rosy Cruz. Sales Regional Coordinator, Mexico
Rosy has always been close to Sistema.bio. She first knew about the technology because her mother is a long-term user of the biodigester. Rosy is a mom of three very active children and enjoys going out for long walks to the field in Villa del Carbón, Estado de México, where she is from. When she was in college and saw her mom using biogas, immediately knew she wanted to be a part of it.
As a true example of a great team member, she now has been an Area Sales Manager for four years and has enjoyed every one of them a lot. A clear example of her dedication alive for her work and Sistema.bio’s values. Rosaisela likes engaging with the farmers in her community, learning and hearing from them because every case is very unique and she likes to offer solutions that will improve their lives. “I like to work in the field, agriculture, and technology, so Sistema.bio is a great fit,” Rosy says.
One of her biggest challenges is to balance her day-to-day work with her family, but by using TaroWorks technology Rosy tries to plan her activities at the field while making time to coordinate her team, collect farmers’ information, track their progress, and get back to her family for quality time every day. Being a sales agent at Sistema.bio has been a gratifying experience for Rosy. It has allowed her to grow professionally, and learn about other digital tools like TaroWorks and Salesforce that make her day easier. “I am more confident now. I can stand and sell a single biodigester, but also can speak in a crowded room with farmers and coworkers,” Rosy says while concluding that she hopes to plant a seed in her children to be brave and environmentally conscious.
Esmeralda Espinoza. Sales Coordinator, Mexico
“With love and passion, my day-to-day work is easier” that is how Esmeralda describes her experience as a woman working in Sistema.bio. She was born in Cuautepec in Hidalgo, Mexico, in a family with a long history in the textile industry, but Esmeralda was always more interested in outside activities and nature. That is why when she first heard about Sistema.bio during her time in college, while becoming an Engineer in Renewable Energies, she knew she wanted to be a part of it. Esmeralda, a very persistent and enthusiastic woman, tried for many years to enter the company and one day finally received the call to become a sales agent. Esmeralda said it was wonderful to finally put my expertise and love for nature to practice!
One of the main tools of Esmeralda’s daily work is the TaroWorks app and she liked it from the very beginning, mainly because when she started in Sistema.bio all her selling tracking was done by pen and paper. But then with the app, she was able to visualize all of the farmers in her zone and digitally follow up on her clients’ payments, doubts, and installation processes. “Now I sell a lot more and even have time to be more proactive and strategic at my work,” Esmeralda said.
She states that being a women sales agent is quite a challenge because sometimes farmers do not trust her because of her gender or age. However, when Esmeralda shows them on her TaroWorks app the map and the data tracking along with her years-long experience, she can quickly close the sale. That way she takes advantage of the offline system when working from the field. “We as women are capable of doing everything that we want. Obstacles and challenges are everywhere, we just have to love our work and with the tools we have fight for our dreams.”
Emmy Soi. Technical Coordinator, Kenya
As a little girl, Emmy always dreamt of becoming an engineer; quite unconventional for a girl, even then. She grew up, and somewhere along the way, decided to settle for a career in the Technical field; not very far from her childhood dream. The notion that certain jobs are only meant for men was still very rampant, and Emmy says that most of her close family and friends were not supportive at all. Her husband was however very supportive, even taking care of their young kids as she developed her career.
In February 2018, Emmy joined Sistema.bio as an assistant Technician. She says she fell in love with her job then; from clearing the site to the installation and commissioning of a facility that converts waste to wealth. Shortly after she joined Sistema.bio, the company enrolled her for training on the Taroworks app, and how to use it in her day to day operations. At first, she was apprehensive, thinking that this would only complicate her work, but the training was so thoroughly and professionally done that she felt like an expert by the end of the training. She says that the TaroWorks app has enabled her to automate most of the tasks that she used to do manually, such as tracking her clients for installation and recording and saving her reports in real time. She is also able to review her clients’ details without having to make endless calls to the client or the office team. This, she says, allows her to save time and accomplish more during her work day. Emmy’s career has been on an upward trajectory from an Assistant Technician, to a Senior Technician, and now currently a Technical Coordinator. This speaks for her hard work and dedication.
She is appreciative of companies like Sistema.bio that give women a chance to play in the same field as the men; and of tech companies like Taroworks that step in to empower the women in her field.
Emmy, who is a mother to two beautiful kids, urges husbands or partners whose wives chose to pursue careers in the ‘male-dominated’ fields to be very supportive. Her family and friends have finally come around after seeing that her career is no different from others; with some even looking to her to mentor their young daughters.
”Women simply have to believe in themselves and pursue their dreams, regardless of the biases that society holds. I don’t think the burden of making women feel comfortable in our field should lie solely on men. It’s about working together irrespective of gender.” Emmy says as a parting shot.
Suvarana Sawant. Technical Coordinator, India
Driven by her passion for social work and desire to create a life independent from her family, Suvarana joined Sistema.bio in January 2023. Hailing from a small family of five in Karmad in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, she had no prior experience or background in technical work. Her mother is a housewife while her father owns a small shop.
Suvarana holds a master’s degree in social work and has always wanted to work for something that makes an impact which is probably what drove her closer to Sistema.bio’s purpose. After a series of interviews, she joined the company and was immediately introduced to the TaroWorks application and within a month she is an expert at it. She has completed over 40 installations using the app. In case she faces any difficulty with the app, she mentions her project manager and team members are always by her side.
She says that her team members and everyone in the company has been very supportive throughout. As for the farmers, she says, “being a woman I have an advantage over men. Farmers follow my instructions closely and respond positively as compared to the other employees who are not women”. Her parting shot: “Although my job is perceived to be male-centric, I would encourage more and more females to join me and change this stereotype.”