It’s Sunday morning and Gustavo and I are packed and ready to go after wrapping up a successful three-week stay in Tarapoto. We spend our last 30 minutes
at the hotel, enjoying a typical breakfast of fresh pineapple juice, coffee, scrambled eggs with ham, and fried sweet plantains. We both plop 2-3 Soles on
the table and walk to the lobby to retrieve our bags. It’s worth noting that our breakfasts at the hotel are complimentary, so we’re essentially paying
$1.00 for a meal that puts continental breakfasts at U.S. hotels to shame!
As we drive to the airport, I take a moment to reflect on our time spent in la Ciudad de las Palmeras (City of Palms). If you ever plan on visiting
Tarapoto, here are a couple of things to consider: It’s HOT in the jungle! High 90’s every day with humidity levels that make you feel like you’re
continuously sweating. Oh wait, you are continuously sweating. When hiking through the Amazonian rainforest, you’ll be walking among a number of highly
poisonous spiders, snakes and frogs, so do yourself a favor and don’t touch anything you don’t recognize. On second thought, don’t touch anything at all.
In all seriousness, Tarapoto is a lovely city and it’s difficult to not feel a sense of tranquility when walking through the main plaza with beautiful
rainforest-covered mountains as a backdrop. I fully appreciate why the locals are so happy with living in “la selva” (the jungle). The people of Tarapoto
are wonderfully pleasant, full of life, and generous with their time, which is saying a lot about their general dispositions, seeing that most citizens
work six days a week if not seven.
We’ve made quite a lot of progress on our project while here, including multiple farm visits and interviews with cacao cooperatives, financiers, and other
local NGO representatives. Most importantly, we were able to spend a week with our PIMCO colleagues, Alain and Nicole, who accomplished an impressive
amount of work before our arrival, in order to transition the project to phase two – validating and finalizing the model. A week from today, Gustavo and I
will be presenting our findings to both TechnoServe and USAID.
I think it’s safe to say that creating a solution for this problem has proven to be more challenging than we initially anticipated, especially given the
fact that we want to ensure the model is farmer-centric. With the diminutive amount of profit currently flowing back to farmers, it’s no surprise they
can’t afford to buy fertilizer. Most are already underwater for a majority of the year as they take loans out to pay for their children’s education and
basic living expenses. On the other hand, banks, exporters and input suppliers are achieving high profit margins, often at the farmer’s expense. However,
we do feel that unlocking credit opportunities for famers can generate profitability for all parties involved, as it would allow fertilizer companies to
sell more products, famers to produce more crops, and ultimately give exporters more coffee/cacao to bring to market.