The guard slides a plastic bin down the counter, places it in front of me, and gives instructions in Spanish to remove all metal items from my pockets. I’m not carrying much, as I already left my cell phone in the car, knowing it would not be allowed inside the building. As I wait to walk through the metal detector, I look up and see three framed portraits on the far wall. Barak Obama, Joe Biden and John Kerry side by side, with an American flag hanging just above their heads. Gustavo and I are entering the U.S. Embassy in Lima where we will meet with USAID to deliver our final presentation.

It was a very busy four days leading up to the presentation, as Gustavo and I worked around the clock to put the final touches on our PowerPoint. We also conducted a few mock presentations with TechnoServe’s Victor Ganoza and Andrei Belyi, who provided extremely helpful feedback on our content and delivery.

A few of the main takeaways that we delivered to USAID were: 1) A meaningful amount of profit can be unlocked across the value chain with the implementation of a fertilizer financing mechanism, 2) The two main entities that are most well positioned to facilitate a financing program are farmer cooperatives and exporters, and 3) In order for the program to achieve sustainable long-term results, it’s critical that farmers receive proper technical assistance (agronomic and personal finance training).

 

Gustavo and I were pleased with how the meeting went, and USAID representative, Terence Miller, seemed very interested in our ideas. We are happy to report that the pilot program has been approved and built into TechnoServe’s budget for next year. I am truly proud of the work we have accomplished and it will be exciting to hear about the project’s future impact and potential scalability.

With that said, our time in Peru has come to a close and what an amazing six weeks this has been. I can’t speak highly enough about the Emerging Enterprise Program and the partnership the PIMCO Foundation has developed with TechnoServe. This is without question one of the most unique opportunities I’ve had the fortune to experience, providing significant professional and personal growth across a multitude of dimensions.

When reflecting upon this incredible adventure, what will stand out the most are the people. The friendly hotel and restaurant staff, curious café patrons, eager shopkeepers, hustling moto-taxi drivers, dedicated volunteers and most importantly the famers. I truly have a new found appreciation for the level of work required for me to enjoy an espresso or bar of chocolate. These famers endure grueling work day after day, year after year and when it’s all said and done, most aren’t able to produce enough crop to return a profit. If they’re lucky, they’ll have a good harvest, find a fair market price and break even for the year, but many remain underwater, battling each month to find ways to pay off their debt. This is their life, their reality, yet in the face of so much adversity, they are still proud to be farmers and proud to have the means to provide for their families. They greet you with smiles and open arms, invite you into their modest homes, and would gladly spend all day speaking with you about their lives.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I enjoyed working side by side with the people of TechnoServe. Their staff could not have been more hospitable and accommodating; I truly felt like a member of their family. While I am sad to depart their company and the wonderful country of Peru, I cannot think of a better team of individuals to carry forward the mission of helping rural communities overcome poverty through business solutions.

The Volunteer

Drew Mena

VP-Regional Manager, GWM Internal Sales

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