Assisting Remote Coffee Production in the Peruvian Amazon
Moyobamba is many things. It is the capital city of the San Martín region in the Peruvian Amazon. It is the City of Orchids, nicknamed for the 3,500 orchid species that are native to the area and a major agricultural trade hub for the Aguaruna indigenous people. It’s also the center of operations for multiple coffee producers, including the Northeastern Jungle Producers’ Association (in Spanish, Asociación de Productores Selva Nororiental), or APROSELVANOR by its Spanish abbreviation.
Rivers cut through this tropical savanna, and its steep slopes and high altitude lend themselves well to coffee production. Moyobamba has drawn the attention of several international NGOs, which share the objective of improving the quality and marketability of the region’s coffee sector. Meanwhile, some local cooperatives and producer associations, such as APROSELVANOR, are working towards benefiting the small coffee producers that live in the surrounding area by buying their coffee at competitive prices and providing them with access to critical post-harvest technology as members.
NCBA CLUSA joins Solidaridad International, Technoserve, and Root Capital in partnership with APROSELVANOR to promote its growth in the coffee sector. The women-led association has already had some successes in the production and sale of green coffee since its establishment in 2015, and it has even secured a US-based client, called Sustainable Harvest, to whom it exported coffee in 2019. Its general manager, Maricely Guevara Sanchez, has her eyes set on widening the association’s market base globally, reducing its reliance on middlemen, and diversifying its products to include roasted coffee — all in the year 2020.
APROSELVANOR is also in a position to leverage its Fair Trade, Organic, UTZ, and C.A.F.E. Practices certifications to interested buyers, however these buyer-seller relationships need to be established with importers and roasters abroad. NCBA CLUSA, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Farmer-to-Farmer program, is providing APROSELVANOR with volunteer technical assistance to support the association achieve its goals developed under Maricely’s leadership and vision.
While NCBA CLUSA has previous experience implementing the Farmer-to-Farmer program in Senegal, Zambia, Honduras, and El Salvador, its assignment with APROSELVANOR in February 2020 was its first in Peru and set the organization off to a great start in country. Mollie Moisan, a volunteer veteran of the Farmer-to-Farmer program, returned to NCBA CLUSA a third time to lend her time and expertise to assist APROSELVANOR on the Marketing Strategy Project assignment.
Mollie is a licensed Q grader, coffee enthusiast, and farm advocate, as well as a consultant with over 10 years of experience in the cooperative sector. She was excited to bring her experience with coffee cooperatives, market access, and business planning to Peru to meet the needs of the association. “[APROSELVANOR members] were motivated, as was I, to get as much quality work done as we could,” she said of the assignment.
Once Mollie arrived in Peru, she and the members of the association got to work. Mollie assisted APROSELVANOR to bolster its online presence by creating two Instagram accounts with tailored content for potential international and regional buyers (Instagram handles @aproselvanor and @cafe8valles, respectively). Together, Mollie and APROSELVANOR also established a dedicated team for the sale and delivery of roasted coffee domestically, as well as developed an export strategy that included training Maricely to pitch her product to industry professionals at the Specialty Coffee Expo in Portland, which she planned to attend. While the Expo has since been canceled due to health and safety concerns related to COVID-19, Maricely remains optimistic about her ability to connect to buyers through Mollie’s professional network, as well as through the association’s revamped social media pages.
A highlight of the assignment for both Maricely and Mollie was the opportunity to do cupping. Mollie had commented to some APROSELVANOR members that if her assignment were a full-time job, she would love to find the time to introduce them to cupping so that they better understand coffee quality and flavor and use that knowledge to negotiate fair prices with buyers. To her surprise, the following morning, three of the women and several others showed up at the office asking to be trained in cupping. During their time together, Mollie identified a coffee farmer named Eufemia, who was discovered to have a keen palate and natural talent for distinguishing between flavor notes.
Due to the promising outcome of the cupping session, Maricely feels it is an activity worthy of investing additional time and resources. Maricely has already formed a cupping team, which will receive ongoing support from Technoserve and will be open to all members interested in cupping. Importantly, the team will allow the association to discover and develop more cupping talent among its ranks.
Although it is still too early to tell the long-term impact of Mollie’s assignment, it is clear that APROSELVANOR has the talent, commitment, and drive to grow its business. While COVID-19 is likely to delay the implementation of their export strategy, the members of APROSELVANOR have made a friend in Mollie, who is eager to introduce APROSELVANOR to her network of buyers.
The NCBA CLUSA Farmer-to-Farmer program plans to continue its partnership with APROSELVANOR, as well as the other cooperatives and producer associations with which it has built relationships in Peru, Ecuador, and Cambodia. The Farmer-to-Farmer program is currently recruiting volunteers for summer and fall. Please visit our volunteer page to learn more about how you can get involved.