The sun is rising and the street vendors in Lima are out setting up their stands in preparation for the rush hour buzz. One vendor, an elderly man crouched on the sidewalk, catches my attention. He's carefully dressed in wool slacks, a button down, leather belt, leather shoes and straw hat. While his outfit is two sizes too big, it's clear he prides himself on being well dressed for work; no job is too small for a sharp look.

I watch as he uses his frail hands to methodically count individual pieces of cancha (Peruvian corn nuts) and places them into a skinny plastic bag that looks like a giant Twizzler wrapper. On the pavement next to his feet are more large bags of Peruvian snacks and candies awaiting their turn to be re-packaged. How much will he fetch for one bag of cancha? 1 Nuevo Sol, or in Dollar terms, about 31 cents. As we part ways, I begin to wonder how many days he has been executing the same routine.

The timing of our first week in Lima couldn’t have worked out better as it coincided with the city’s annual food and beverage exhibition, ExpoAlimentaria. This high profile event is the region’s largest international trade show, attracting buyers and exporters from all over. For those of you in New York, the venue space was not much smaller than the Jacob Javits Center.

Gustavo and I were fortunate enough to accompany TechnoServe’s Regional Director, Andrei Belyi, along with Victor Ganoza and a team of other staff members to the event. A large section of the floor, cosponsored by TechnoServe, was dedicated to the Peruvian coffee and cacao sectors and was where we spent the majority of our day.

There were roughly 25 producers in attendance, each with their own stand and unique display of products varying from chocolate bars to chocolate liquor. It was wonderful to see how excited each of them was about their products, the variety of beans used as well as where and how the beans were farmed. Part of what made the event special was that many of the individuals representing their products were not sales reps, but rather the actual farmers responsible for the numerous hours of hard labor and sweat required to raise a bean.

Overall it was a great experience and included an afterglow reception with food, drinks, video presentations and live music. At one point in the evening I had the pleasure of meeting with a few Peruvian politicians including the Ministry of Foreign Commerce, Magali Silva, and President of the Addex Export Association, Eduardo Amorrortu.


On Sunday, we departed Lima and flew northeast to Tarapoto, where we will spend the following three weeks in TechnoServe’s satellite office. Tarapoto is the largest city in the San Martín region and is within driving distance of most of the coffee and cacao farmers with whom we'll be consulting.

The Volunteer

Drew Mena

VP-Regional Manager, GWM Internal Sales

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