Our week began bright and early on the road with Jhony, a member of the TechnoServe staff, visiting several farmers that are currently involved in the
finance model that last year’s EEP cohort initiated. It was a hot and humid day when we met with our first farmer, Miller, who was dripping in sweat from
the hard work he had been putting in that morning. We asked Miller about some of the financial issues he was facing, and ways that we could improve the
financial model. He, as with many of the farmers we spoke to, highlighted the importance of having cash in March, when many families need to cover the
costs of sending their children to school. March is a particularly difficult month from a liquidity standpoint for many cacao farmers because it is just
before the main harvest (April – July).
After meeting with farmers in the first part of the week, we traveled back to Alto Huallaga to discuss some of the trends we were seeing among the members
of the cooperative. We were welcomed to the co-op once again by a strong vinegar-like smell, which comes from the drying and fermenting of the cacao grain.
At the cooperative, the grain is dried, fermented and processed, and is then exported to developed markets. The perimeter of the co-op is lined with mats
of cacao grain drying under the sun.
One of the best parts of the trip so far has been developing relationships with the TechnoServe staff. On Saturday, Ivan invited us over to his family’s
house for an all-day barbeque. We played pool, swam in a river nearby, met his friends, and ate delicious food. During the week, after one of our meetings
with a local bank, Ivan was also kind enough to take a moment out of his day and treat us to a crema (slushee made with fresh fruit juices and a milk
cream), a hometown favorite. It will be tough leaving Tingo María next week.