Gustavo and Drew joined Alain and I in Peru this week and we are very excited to have them here. Even though they were in Lima and we were in Tarapoto, the four of us were able to have some very useful brainstorming and planning meetings despite many dropped Skype and FaceTime calls. We are all looking forward to our upcoming week together in Tarapoto.
Alain and I met with Miker from Cooperativa Agraria El Gran Saposoa, a cooperative, both in Tarapoto and in their offices in Saposoa this week. Miker was very informative and walked us through the financing mechanism El Gran Saposoa employs to offer credit to its members, and he also talked about the challenges they face transporting truckloads of coffee to Lima for export. It takes about 20 hours for a truck to get to Lima, and a member of the cooperative must accompany the driver for the entire trip to help ensure the safety of the cargo.
We also visited Acopagro, another cooperative, which not only provides loans but also sells supplies like fertilizer and other inputs in “kits” to simplify the process for its members. Our last meeting of the week was with Ecom, a large cacao exporter that partnered with SwissContact, another NGO, to develop a mechanism whereby Ecom purchases fertilizer and SwissContact provides technical support to the farmers. In return, the farmers must have an exclusive relationship with Ecom. Most of these programs are very young or still in the pilot stage, but we are excited to be able to learn from them.
Alain and I also had the opportunity to travel to Cusco this week to see the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machu Picchu. It was an absolutely incredible experience and I am so happy that we were able to go. We arrived in Cusco early Friday morning and left right away for the Sacred Valley. We went to three archeological sites, but our last stop in Pisaq was my favorite. Although we arrived after the site had officially closed, the guard let us in to take pictures and we were the only ones there. On Saturday we spent the night in Aguas Calientes, about three hours from Cusco by train, so we could be at Machu Picchu first thing in the morning. We waited in line for the gates to open at 6am, and being there for the sun coming over the mountains was well worth it! In addition to seeing the ruins, we also climbed the mountain, which consisted of 90 minutes of 100% stairs. My legs felt like jelly, but the views were absolutely amazing.