We have completed our first week of work on the coffee project. So far, we have a draft of the condensed presentation from last year’s PIMCO volunteers and
have completed nine (9) interviews with coffee producers and wet mill operators. We have also built preliminary versions of the economic models as we
attempt to find data points to populate the constants in the models.
Last week, we spent our days in the Lima office where we did preparatory work and research for our interviews with producers, co-operative members and mill
operators. While in the office, we were able to attend “El Feria de Hogar” which is an annual fair in the Chorillos district of Lima. The fair had some
elements of an American fair (rides, lots of delicious junk food) but also some unique characteristics, like tents containing educational exhibits and
Peruvian souvenirs. Also, some of the proceeds from the fair would be used for environmental protection and tree planting initiatives. We attended the fair
because several of the chocolate producers that TechnoServe works with were present in a booth. They were raising awareness for and selling their chocolate
product. (It is delicious!!)
On Friday, we flew into Tingo Maria on the one flight that travels between Lima and Tingo Maria each day. Tingo Maria is the small city in the Huanaco
province where we will be based as we investigate the feasibility of a centralized wet mill. While Tingo Maria used to be considered the center of the
“coca” drug trafficking business, in the past several years, it has become a hub of production of coffee and chocolate goods as well as a local eco-tourism
destination. After getting settled into the office on Friday, we took a trip to see some beautiful waterfalls, “El velo de la novia.” These waterfalls form
from the convergence of waters from the Amazonian hillside into the Amazon Basin.
Saturday, we began our work interviewing farmers in the region. We drove down a bumpy dirt road to meet with two coffee producers who work to pick the
product off the coffee trees and then complete the de-pulping, cleaning and drying process at their individual farms. Coffee beans are actually found in
the cherry fruit of the coffee trees and the pulpy fruit needs to be stripped away to reveal the beans, which then need to go through a fermentation
process. This conversion from fruit to coffee bean is labor and time intensive, but with large distances and difficult terrain between the different coffee
farms, it is difficult to establish a centralized milling facility in these areas.
We have met most of the TechnoServe employees based in Tingo Maria. Since the Tingo Maria office is new within the past year, much of the staff relocated
from Tarapoto where the office was located previously. They have been incredibly kind and generous to show us around the city and some of the beautiful
sites in the region. Although the town is more rustic, the scenery is absolutely beautiful and the people are incredibly open and compassionate. We have a
busy week ahead, conducting interviews with producers and co-operative members in the area, as we continue to collect data from a large enough sample to
create inputs for our economic models.