Our trip from Tingo María to Tarapoto this week was a long one, as we checked in with and interviewed several farmers, finance institutions, colleagues and
friends along the way. The non-stop trip from Tingo María to Tarapoto is approximately eight hours, and three hours are on a windy dirt road along a steep
valley. If you have a tendency to get car sick, this would be your worst nightmare.
After driving three hours north of Tingo María, we arrived in the small city of Tocache, which was a large capital for coca 20 years ago. Since then, the
city has become significantly more safe and is home to some of the most beautiful cacao farms we have seen, thanks in part to some of TechnoServe’s hard
In addition to meeting with several farmers in Tocache, Eric and I also met with one of the loan “gestors” (Spanish for manager) from Agrobanco. The
gestors are responsible for personally visiting cacao producers and their farms before originating loans on behalf of Agrobanco. Talking to the gestor was
very important for me and Eric and provided valubale insight that we will be including in our presentation to USAID at the end of the month.
After spending the night in Tocache, Eric, Victor and I woke up early the next morning and headed another three hours north to JuanJuí, where we met with
Agrobanco and another one of Agrobanco’s gestors. A piece of information that stood out to us once again when speaking with the gestor was that 40% of the
farmers use the proceeds of the loan for personal items instead of inputs for their farms. Limiting this risk continues to be a focus of our project, and
we are speaking with several parties to ensure that funds are invested in inputs for the farms.
Our last stop before arriving in Tarapoto was a quaint chocolate factory in one of the small towns along the highway. While there, we had the pleasure of
speaking with the workers that make the delicious commodity, and the opportunity to sample the final product.