A New Path in Peru, Part II
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Ketih Tomlinson, Peace Coffee Staff
It has been nearly six months since I was in Peru. In my last installment of my Peru newsletter story, I talked about my trip up to the mountains, meeting Lucia Zurita-Zurita, and the work we did with Cenfrocafe. Cenfrocafe was one of two cooperatives that we visited while in northern Peru. Cepicafe is the other. Cepicafe is significant to Peace Coffee in two main ways. First, they are the organization through which Cenfrocafe originally exported their coffee and thus were the exporting agent through which we were purchasing Cenfrocafe's coffee. Since then, Cenfrocafe has begun brokering their exporting. Second, Cepicafe was the association that we were working with to get the aforementioned dry-processed coffee. Cepicafe's historic importance however cannot be understated, nor can their future and the many diverse projects on which they are currently working.
By the late 1980s, the cooperative movement in northern Peru had all but disappeared, and by 1992, only three had survived. There were two main reasons for this. First, the government considered them a threat and were unsupportive. Second, there was corruption of the cooperative leaders. It was from this environment that Cepicafe was created in 1992 and then ultimately founded in 1995. It was in 1992 that a group of university students got together to promote cooperatives in norther Peru. Accompanied by a local Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) from Germany, a local NGO, PIDECAFE, was formed. PIDECAFE's function was to provide administrative support, access to credit, and agro-ecology advice to other cooperative organizations. PIDECAFE organized fourteen committees of coffee producers consisting of 280 farmers who formed the base of what would become Cepicafe. Together these farmers were able to sell one half a container of coffee to Germany. Incidentally, it was because of Germany's dislike of dry-processed coffee that these coffee producers then switched over from the more traditional preparation to the wet process that is the more typical industry standard. It was these fourteen committees that then established Cepicafe in 1995. They were registered with the Fair Labeling Organization in 1997 at which time they began exporting Fair Trade Certified coffee. Currently, Cepicafe consists of ninety different groups representing around seven thousand different farmers.
Over the past thirteen years, Cepicafe has learned the following: organizing and communication is the solution to an unsupportive cooperative environment, they need to find small spaces in markets that they have a competitive edge, the responsibility lies with the producers themselves to be involved, they must have a long term vision, and finally they must have a diversity of interests. Speaking to this diversity of interest are the many non-coffee products that Cepicafe is exporting. Other products that farmers produce and export through Cepicafe are cacao, raw sugar, dried candied fruit and marmalade. They are also working on some chocolate covered fruit, which we had the pleasure of being a test group for while visiting the marmalade facility. Currently all of these products are only being exported to Europe.We purchase coffee from another cooperative in southern Peru called Pangoa. I've met a few people who work with Pangoa, but have yet to travel there and look forward to doing so in the future. And of course, I would love to return to both Cenfrocafe and Cepicafe. When asked what we can do more of that would be supportive to the farmers, they typically replied that it was how we tell their story, and differentiate their product that they find to be most important. So thanks for reading my story, which is really their story. Telling it is my small way of to helping to support our farmer partners.