Our first full week in Tarapoto was a busy one - we are learning a lot and feel like our project is starting to get off the ground.
On Tuesday we traveled to Moyobamba, about two hours from Tarapoto, with Angel and Victor from TechnoServe to speak to coffee farmers and a large coffee exporter. We were able to see examples of farms where farmers had applied fertilizer and pruned their plants properly alongside those who did not; the difference was stunning. We talked to the farmers about the challenges they face obtaining credit, what inputs they currently use, and what they would ideally use. The meeting with the exporter was particularly interesting because they demonstrated how they turn "parchment" from the farmers into "green coffee" for export - literally every bean that is exported is inspected by hand.
On Wednesday, we traveled to Sísa, which is a one hour drive from Tarapoto, to meet with cocoa farmers and fertilizer distributors. We were particularly excited about the meeting with the fertilizer distributor because he had started his own fertilizer financing program a few months ago. Borrowing from banks is not a viable option for the farmers because the interest rates are too high, so it is critical for us to identify key characteristics of successful supplier based mechanisms and make a model that is scalable.
On Thursday we traveled to Lamas, a quick drive from Tarapoto, to meet with Oro Verde, a cooperative for both coffee and cocoa farmers. Oro Verde plays an important role in the organic coffee and cocoa supply chain in that it passes the price premium for organic products back to the farmer. Typically the premium is received at time of export, not when the farmer initially sells it, so without organizations like Oro Verde it can be difficult for farmers to reap the financial benefits of producing organically. Oro Verde also has a financing mechanism to help their farmers obtain organic fertilizer which was very interesting to us.
On Friday we digested all of the information we had obtained and started to brainstorm about what our model could look like and what other information we wanted to gather. After a busy week, we spent Saturday at Laguna Azul, a popular destination for tourists from Lima. It rained pretty much all day, but the views were very beautiful and it was nice to get away from the noise of the moto-taxis for a day!