One of the highlights this week was attending ExpoAlimentos, one of Peru's largest food expositions. TechnoServe, USAID and DEVIDA co-sponsored a large
area dedicated to coffee and cacao in the San Martin, Huanuco and Ucayali regions. Farmers and associations were excited to meet us and had many questions
about our current project with TechnoServe.
We spoke at length with Root Capital, a nonprofit organization that provides funding and financial training to cooperatives and associations to help them
grow and become more profitable. They spoke to us about their business model, challenges they face and opportunities for growth. It is becoming clear that
one issue we are facing is the lack of management and financial training for farmers and cooperatives, which would strengthen the value chain and add
profits for the farmers.
Afterwards, we went to a cocktail event that included a performance of typical Peruvian music and dances set to a more modern beat. One of the performances
was the “Danza de las Tijeras” (Scissor Dance) where the performers are dancing with large textile scissors that are unhooked – when the two pieces hit
they make a high pitched twanging or bell-like sound. The dancers performed acrobatics with the scissors in hand – a dangerous yet fascinating performance.
On Thursday we went to a book presentation by DEVIDA, on the recovery of the Monzón region – a region plagued with violence and terrorism due to drug
production and trafficking that is now mostly free of coca production. Although coca is a crop with high demand and farmers may make more money from it,
the community overall has a lower standard of living. With a transition to coffee or cacao the prosperity of the community as a whole increases as there
are more opportunities to create complementary businesses.
We arrived in Tarapoto late last night - a city in the jungle, not far from the Amazon rainforest. We have had food typical of this region, including
Paiche, a giant fish native to the Amazon River, and cecina de chancho, a seasoned and smoked pork. It is clear we are in the jungle, as there are lots of
mosquitoes and unannounced torrential rain downpours!