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This marks a bittersweet week for Gino, Victor and I, as we have wrapped up our field visits and must now leave Tarapoto and return to Lima. We have spent this last week comparing all of the data we acquired across our respective regions to get a better understanding of farmers’ cost structures and determine where prices in the market need to be in order for coffee farmers to remain profitable. This will be a crucial aspect of our final presentation as it will determine our recommendations regarding next steps for TechnoServe. Before our departure though, we also managed to squeeze in a visit to a highly recommended attraction in the San Martin region, known as “Laguna Azul.” The views were fantastic, and while the means of getting there were at times questionable, it was a great way to wrap up our time in Tarapoto. I have really come to enjoy working in the region and hope to one day be able to return for a visit!
This week was relatively calm yet rewarding at the same time. We hit a few important landmarks: 1) Everyone is done traveling to farms, so we have all of the data we need to put together our presentation; 2) We've started aggregating our data and now have a VERY clear idea of the opportunities and challenges in this market; and 3) This is our last week in Tarapoto, which is very bittersweet. Well, honestly a little more bitter than sweet.
When we left Lima to travel here for a month I was genuinely dreading it (more because I had grown to like Lima than anything else). It would have been impossible for me to be more wrong. These past few weeks have opened my eyes to a world I have never known, could not have appreciated as much without my background, and have grown almost completely accustomed to.
My Spanish has developed greatly here, we've met some incredible people, and it has truly been unlike any prior experience of mine. Over the past month I've trained myself to understand the difference between what is economically ideal and what is socially/economically feasible. It has truly shed a light on how lucky we are, how much opportunity we have, and how much we take for granted in the United States. It's an odd sense of guilty (American) pride; happy that my parents and grandparents worked hard to give me as much opportunity as possible yet guilty that so many people not only live without those opportunities but are even unaware they exist.
We spent most of the day Friday visiting one last coffee farm and taking pictures. When we returned to the office they set up a going away party for us which was a great way to say goodbye to everyone and wrap up a great month! Over the weekend we visited Laguna Azul which was absolutely gorgeous – if you're ever in Tarapoto this is a must. Saturday evening we had a small going away party at one of the local establishments with the friends we made over the last month. If I haven't emphasized this point enough, I LOVED TARAPOTO and this has truly been an amazing experience and will forever be on my recommended list for anyone visiting Peru!
After a 10 hour drive through the Andes Mountains, I had finally reached the heart of the coffee producing region in Northern Peru, among the towns of San Ignacio and Jaen. It became immediately evident that coffee is king here, as every other store front advertises “we buy coffee” and even the roads are lined by long tarps where the beans are laid out to dry. My anticipation of that next hot cup of coffee was mounting (quality control is my favorite part of the job), but I was thrown a curveball when on that first morning they placed a cup of hot water in front of me along with a small shot of “esencia de café” which I was to mix into my hot water. This is the Peruvian version of “instant coffee,” only it tastes a lot worse. In truth, a lot of people in the area don’t even drink coffee because they believe it is bad for your health. Still, this has also posed an interesting opportunity we are investigating regarding raising the profile of coffee for internal consumption in Peru. Needless to say, asking someone out for coffee likely does not have the same appeal here as it does in the US or Europe!
This has definitely been one of the most meaningful weeks of my time here in Peru, but also one of the most challenging. It can be easy to lose sight of the people you are trying to help by getting caught up in the numbers, and these field visits were really a great way to put it all into perspective.
This week was personally very challenging as Victor and Marissa were both traveling to coffee farms and I was in Tarapoto alone working on some international market analysis. This was the first time I would have to be conversationally functional in Spanish without my colleagues as crutches. I must say, I surprised myself! Although there were some frustrating points throughout the week, I managed to get by both professionally and socially without any major complications.
I spent the week in the office researching the percentage of export price that is captured by farmers in an attempt to understand monthly/annual trends and identify areas of opportunity. After many hours I was able to extract farm level price data for every region in Peru over the last 20 years as well as the export prices for the respective regions. Combining this price data with information we've gathered from field visits, I was able to identify some pretty good areas of opportunity that should play a key role in our final analysis.
On Tuesday I had the opportunity to visit a farm north of Lamas, about 90 minutes from the office. This past week also gave me an opportunity to become closer with the TechnoServe staff. I went to lunch with several of them and one of our colleagues was nice enough to invite me to his home for dinner one evening. Over the weekend I took some time to relax and explore the city on my own and had dinner in Lamas Saturday night with a colleague and two of his friends...it was refreshing to take a break from doing something touristy and just enjoy the days! Until next week!
This week I was fortunate enough, with the assistance of TechnoServe staff, to travel to Junín with Guillermo Ganoza, a Forest Engineer, Lead Auditor for Sustainable Agriculture, Rainforest Alliance certifier and even a Master Coffee Cupper – licensed Q Grader. As you may recall from my week three blog I was previously unable to travel to this region due to road closures.
I cannot begin to describe to you how critical these field visits are and the importance of data gathering and analyzing. All the field visits I have conducted thus far have been extremely informative and it’s evident that the coffee producers and all who are part of the coffee business are passionate about coffee. For example, on my third day in Junín we visited Villa Rica, a German- and Austrian-influenced town. We visited and spent the whole day with Mr. Domingo Brack, a very influential coffee producer whose family has a history in Villa Rica and a strong presence in the coffee business. From our conversation I learned that there is a need and want for a change in the way Peru thinks about coffee production and quality.
I look forward to sharing my experiences and data-gathering with my colleagues for a successful project. Our last week in Tarapoto will be next week and for me I know it will be bittersweet since I have truly enjoyed my time here.
This week I was able to travel with another TechnoServe consultant to Moyobamba, a small town two hours away from Tarapoto where much of the coffee in the San Martin region is grown. It was also my first opportunity to visit coffee farms and speak to producers, and definitely one of the highlights of this experience thus far. As most specialty coffees are grown at 1,200 meters and above, getting there proved to be the biggest challenge. Given that motorcycles are by far the most common form of transportation here, the roads going up to the farms are not meant for trucks. In fact, there were a number of sticky situations where we would all have to get out of the truck and help direct the driver across some questionable “bridges.” It was well worth the adventure though as these visits not only brought our project to life, but also gave me a profound sense of perspective given the difficult circumstances these people endure for a product that I enjoy each day and often don’t think twice about. I look forward to continuing this journey through my travels to Jaen and San Ignacio next week.
Every week has proven to be filled with many interesting and eye-opening new experiences, but this past week has definitely taken the proverbial cake. My colleague Chris and I did some field research south of San Martin. We stayed in the town of Juanjui and traveled each day to a different town in the mountains, meeting with cooperatives and farmers. Juanjui looks like a scene out of a slightly more modern Wild West movie. Once narcos and drug trafficking were eradicated from the area, what’s left are many businesses and few customers.
Every morning we were picked up around 4am and we traveled to towns roughly two hours from Juanjui to meet with co-ops, farmers and intermediaries. The effect of coca excavation was even more noticeable in these towns. I also saw first-hand how many farmers and families were affected by the roya (leaf rust) disease. Some of these farmers will lose 60-70% of their harvest this year, most of which could be avoided by good farming practices like using insecticides or fertilizers. The look of frustration and helplessness on the majority of these farmers’ faces was saddening and disheartening. One farmer had two hectares of land, produced 70+ quintales of coffee last year and will produce only five quintales this year! This is definitely an area where we can propose sustainable change to better the living conditions for these farmers and their communities...so, that's at least an upside.
Over the weekend we were invited to a party at a TechnoServe colleague’s house to watch the Peru vs. Uruguay qualifying match. Even though Peru lost it was a great cultural experience! On Sunday that same colleague invited us to his friend's cumpleanos in Lamas. It was a REAL South American experience/party and we were all very thankful he took us along with him. The people here are so welcoming and friendly...they genuinely want to show you how great their country is with no ulterior motives and expect nothing in return but courtesy and appreciation. Next week Victor and Marissa travel and I'm in Tarapoto, so it should be the best test of my Spanish yet...no assistance from them! Until next week!
This week I stayed in Tarapoto while Marissa and Gino traveled to different locations. I had the opportunity to meet with various stakeholders of the coffee value chain from small coffee producers to exporters.
The interviews I conducted were with presidents and general managers of various associations, cooperatives, public and private enterprises as well as agricultural engineers. For example, on one of my visits Wagner Garcia (TechnoServe Coordinator – Café/Cacao) and I met with Filbert, a small coffee producer and president of an association in Pueblo Nuevo. I had the opportunity to interact with him in topics such as productivity, quality and sustainability of coffee in his region. Furthermore, Filbert invited us to take a look at his small coffee farm and explained to us a little bit about the best practices he has implemented.
This week has given me a profound perspective of the daily life of not only a small coffee producer but also with colleagues in the Tarapoto TechnoServe office who educate and motivate communities for a better quality of life. Next week I travel to Junin, another region in Peru, for additional field visits.
This marks our first week in Tarapoto and yet we are already making plans to visit coffee producing areas throughout the San Martin region. We did manage to squeeze in some time to tour the town though, which included a stop at one of the chocolate boutiques that last year’s group of Emerging Enterprise Program volunteers worked with. Needless to say the pace of life is dramatically slower compared to Lima, to the point where it seems like there are more hours included in a normal Tarapoto day (in a good way)! We are also preparing to make our first round of field visits with farmers and cooperative organizations. Our goal will be to understand their unique set of challenges within the context of the institutional framework we built out over the first month. Let the real investigative work begin!
We've been in Peru for a little over a month and it only feels like days! This was our first week in the Tarapoto office and it's absolutely incredible. Tarapoto couldn't be more different than Lima, where we’ve been for the past few weeks. The majority of Tarapoto roads are dirt, transportation includes zero traffic laws and is by motorcycle or moto taxi only, and the office literally is outside!
The TechnoServe Tarapoto staff has been so welcoming. They're nearing the implementation stage of a cacao project they've been working on for the last two years and thought it would be helpful to share best practices. They gave us some great ideas that will be applicable to our project and we spent the rest of the week putting together ways to cross those ideas over.
Friday was a national holiday so Victor and I decided to travel to Cusco/Machu Picchu for the weekend. We left Tarapoto Thursday at 10pm, had a layover in Lima, got to Cusco around 8:30am and spent Friday exploring the city. Saturday we took a taxi at 2am to catch a 4am train so we could make it to Machu Picchu to see the sunrise....well worth the sleep deprivation! We hiked for about 7 or 8 hours, then hopped a bus, train, and taxi to make our way back to Cusco and the next day to Tarapoto.
This coming week we all travel to different remote locations in the Andes to do farm visits; should be a great experience (and the hardest language test I've ever taken)!
We have arrived in Tarapoto, San Martin. The weather is great, our TechnoServe colleagues in the Tarapoto office are very hospitable, and Gino, Marissa and I are getting acquainted with the area. This week we had a presentation by Tito Jaime, Deputy Director of the Tarapoto office. He gave us a general SWOT analysis of the coffee value chain in the San Martin region as well as some historical background. Now almost mid-way through our projects, my focus is to understand coffee productive practices and costs from a small coffee farmer’s perspective as it relates to production (volume, yield, etc.) and quality (best practices, certification, etc.). The most critical part of all this is to be able to gather data and conduct interviews with a significant sample size of small coffee farmers and all the stakeholders involved in coffee value chain. I must be able to identify the most critical problems and gaps and find opportunities for intervention in the coffee value chain. The following week will be filled with field visits and interviews.
Friday, August 30 was a national holiday in Peru and so our office was closed. With the assistance of Ericka, Administrative Assistant in the Tarapoto office, Gino and I organized a trip to Cusco to visit Machu Picchu. Visiting Machu Picchu was an amazing experience and one that I will never forget.
With the initial framework for our study set up, we can now get to the good part: tasting! This week I learned how to do cupping, the process by which you assess the overall quality of coffee through its body, aroma and flavor. We also attended a coffee expo, which highlighted coffee from the Villa Rica region of Peru, and it was a great informal opportunity to speak to producers for the first time. The tasting didn’t stop there though. Lima is currently undergoing a gastronomic boom, which has led to an explosion of unique and innovative restaurants (I’m trying my best to get through them!). In fact, tourists are no longer using Lima as a stopover to head to Machu Picchu, but are coming here just to eat. Many would argue that Peruvian cuisine’s rise in international popularity is mostly through the efforts of resident chef, Gaston Acurio of La Mar fame. While Lima has undoubtedly been a great host, we are anxious to get to Tarapoto so that we can have “boots on the ground” and finally start testing all of the theories we have developed thus far. The warmer weather wouldn’t hurt either…
This week has proven to be the most demanding week yet from a project perspective. Between the three of us we had something like six interviews, three on-site visits and a presentation to Carl Cervone, TechnoServe’s coffee specialist based in Norwalk, CT. We’re gaining a much stronger understanding of bottle-necks along the coffee value chain and have an idea of some simple processes that can be implemented to increase efficiencies, especially at the farm level.
On Friday, through a long list of referrals, I was invited to visit a procurement plant in Lima of a London-based investment firm that specializes in coffee and cocoa. Marissa and I were picked up around 7:00am, chauffeured to the plant, and spent the morning learning about quality assurance, cup tasting, dry-milling, warehousing, and exporting. For the first time we got to see what happens after coffee is harvested but before it reaches ports across the world…truly an eye-opening experience.
This week I finished my 20 hours of Spanish tutoring. By the last class my tutor and I spent the full 120 minutes just having a conversation. With the help of Marissa and Victor my language confidence (while still relatively low!) has never been stronger. On Saturday, Victor and I did some exploring of the city and ended up having lunch for three hours (completely typical Saturday here) at La Mar, the infamous restaurateur Gaston’s cebicheria. The food was some of the best I’ve had in Peru!
On Sunday we went to a coffee fair in Barranco where we spoke with some small business owners from Villa Rica and sampled some of the best coffee we've had thus far. Tonight we fly to Tarapoto where we’ll be spending the next four weeks (with shorter trips to more remote farm areas mixed in during that time). I could not be more excited to spend a month in the Andes/rainforest....new culture, climate, and people...I'm sure it will be very different from Lima! Hasta la proxima semana!
As we come into the third week, my original plan was to travel to central Peru, to a region called Junín, to visit from Tuesday to Friday and interview local producers, cooperatives, and businesses for a comparison study vs. San Martin, our region of focus. However, over the weekend “cafetaleros” (coffee growers) closed down roads into the region and asked government officials to form a dialogue to take concrete actions and assist local coffee growers to overcome the current coffee crisis due to the plague of yellow rust. Local media reports that in the region of Junín coffee growers have lost 90% of production this year.
As I continue my stay in Lima this week my focus will be to conduct interviews in Lima, start creating a very rough draft of our presentation, and create additional documents that will help us in conducting interviews and evaluating the coffee value chain as we make our way to Tarapoto for field visits in the coming weeks.
Our evaluation of the coffee sector in Peru is well underway! A lot of the current buzz surrounding the industry is being focused on "roya," or leaf rust - a fungus that has spread from Central America all the way down to Peru. It is estimated that the roya has damaged between 30-40% of this year's harvest in Peru alone. I met with the Ministry of Agriculture this week to learn about the planned government intervention taking place to help combat this fungus. Still, the general consensus among government officials and private enterprises alike is that the roya is not the problem, but instead it’s the lack of best practices for coffee production.
There is clearly a lot of political pressure to address this fungus as it affects the livelihood of so many citizens, but TechnoServe is trying to look beyond this short-term crisis and focus efforts on capacity building among farmers. We are continuing to conduct interviews with government entities, exporters, traders and other non-profit organizations in Lima to assess and prioritize the challenges facing the coffee value chain, after which we will head to Tarapoto for a month to work with farmers and cooperative organizations.
As we wrap up our second week on this project it's becoming more and more evident how short of a time period two months really is. This week we began interviewing coffee experts who play an influential role at every part of the value chain. One of the most consistent problems we're seeing is a lack of organization in the Peruvian coffee sector from smallholder farmers to co-operatives all the way up to exporters and buyers. In most of the interviews, we are trying to verify data we've gathered from our research and gain additional insight from the experts who know the ins and outs of this market. From the majority of our interviews we're getting pretty similar responses...so setting a benchmark for our production, revenue, and cost projections shouldn't be too difficult. The challenge lies in using this information to build a case compelling enough to spark a national effort to share best practices, improve quality assurance, and work cohesively as a sector. It will definitely be an interesting challenge!
Over the weekend we tried some new restaurants and explored the local night life. We leave in one week for Tarapoto to do field work study. I'm extremely excited to see another part of Peru and to experience (for the first time in three weeks) some South American sun! Hasta pronto!
This week we continued to work in the Lima office, researching the coffee industry and learning from TechnoServe staff and specialists about practices in production, quality and sustainability. We had a particular focus in further identifying key analysis and data to verify our hypothesis, writing interview guides for groups of stakeholders, and starting to reach out to industry players and experts in the coffee industry and schedule interviews.
Over the weekend we had a chance to visit downtown Lima and toured one of the oldest Catholic monasteries in Peru, plus the catacombs, which are ancient burial grounds. On Saturday we attended a buffet dinner showcasing traditional dance and music. We also encountered a celebration on the main square of Lima on Sunday celebrating the day of the children. Lima is a very socially conscious city with lots to see and do.
From the day I arrived in Lima I've had an overall great experience. The work is exciting and rewarding, the culture unlike any other I’ve experienced, and TechnoServe is such a fantastic organization to work with.
On day two in Lima, Marissa introduced us to Claudio, a friend of her uncle’s, and he immediately treated us like his own. He took us to a local Cevicheria (a place that is only open from roughly 12-5pm because they only serve fish that is caught fresh that morning). Claudio is a chef, food critic, and incredibly knowledgeable of all things Peruvian (we also connected because his mother is from the same town in Italy that my grandmother's family is from). He speaks English fluently but most of the conversation was in Spanish and I quickly learned I have a lot of catching up to do.
Marissa, Victor and I spent our first full week strategizing on the best way to approach the analysis of coffee markets in the San Martin region, meeting with experts in the industry, and building a list of potential contacts and desired people to interview. We also explored el Centro (the center of the city) where we went to a catacomb museum, San Franciscan church and saw a parade for one of the patron saints. This past weekend, Claudio had us over for lunch and gave us recommendations for people to reach out to in the coffee industry. Although this is an informal relationship, I have a strong feeling it's going to bode well for our project. I've also started taking Spanish classes for two hours a day (I'm going every day after work); I'm becoming more and more confident in my language skills!
TechnoServe is most widely known for its work with coffee farmers, and as such I was surprised to learn that these initiatives have only recently begun in Peru. Today, strategic efforts in the region are now expanding beyond cacao to include coffee and mining.
Despite rapid economic growth, Peru has a long way to go. Resources previously available from foreign aid are now being directed toward "higher priority" countries, leaving local organizations in Peru responsible for fostering economic development for rural farmers and their families. While the rise of coffee cooperatives has grown quickly over the past 10 years, enabling small-holder farmers to become competitive in international markets, Peru’s overall positioning in the global coffee market is still relatively weak. Gino, Victor and I will thus be focusing on three main interventions throughout the next two months:
-Increasing farmer productivity
-Capturing higher margins for farmers by identifying value chain inefficiencies
-Understanding Peruvian specialty coffee's competitive advantages with the aim of capturing a larger portion of the overall coffee market
This project has the potential to impact more than 160,000 farmers, and by extension close to one million people in the region.
We have completed Week One in Lima, Peru, and it’s been quite busy! This trip and project have been exciting from the start. During our first week, Marissa, Gino and I have met TechnoServe staff, conducted research on the coffee industry in Peru, and further defined our scopes of work and deliverables. On Wednesday, we had a top-down, bottom-up training session related to the coffee industry which allowed us to learn about the different regions in Peru from a San Martín-based TechnoServe coordinator and a representative from a cooperative. My particular project is focused on identifying challenges and improvement opportunities in productivity, quality, and sustainability at the local farmer level.
Peruvian culture and food have been amazing! The ceviche is excellent, with different varieties of fish. I have managed to get some exercise in during the evenings and further get to know my colleagues. I will be in Lima for another week. During my third week, I will travel to Junín, a region in central Peru, to visit with local farmers, cooperatives, and private enterprises.
Chosen after a competitive global application process, these PIMCO professionals are volunteering in Lima and with rural coffee farmers in San Martin, Peru. From field visits to cost analysis, each PIMCO volunteer works with local farmers, helping create small businesses that are sustainable and transformative in their communities.
Position: Senior Compliance Analyst, L&C – Guideline Compliance
Newport Beach, California
Assignment: Assess the potential of coffee farming in Peru: identify challenges and improvement opportunities in productivity, quality and sustainability. To perform a diagnostic of the coffee value chain in Peru, with particular focus on practices at the farm level.
“I look forward to collaborating with PIMCO colleagues as well as TechnoServe staff in bringing innovative, sustainable, and educational solutions for the future of local Peruvian farmers and their families.”
Position: Associate, CF – Institutional, Latin America
New York, New York
Assignment: Identify opportunities to strengthen the institutional and commercial structure of the coffee sector in Peru. To perform internal and external interviews to understand the institutional and commercial structure of the coffee sector in Peru, and its current challenges at different levels: e.g. logistic roadblocks, limited transparency, lack of sector coordination, etc.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to build business solutions that will help rural communities lift themselves out of poverty. I’m proud to represent PIMCO and can’t wait to get started!”
Position: Internal Advisor Consultant, GWM – Internal Sales
New York, New York
Assignment: Understand international trends and market opportunities for Peruvian coffee. To perform a diagnostic of the coffee value chain in Peru, with particular focus on international marketing.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to grow both personally and professionally. I could not be more excited to work towards a sustainable business structure that will contribute to the battle against Peruvian poverty.”
You can follow Victor, Marissa and Gino as they report from the field on their experiences and individual projects with and to read the volunteers’ blogs.
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