Fair Trade Coffee in Peru: An Economist's Notebook

Travelogue of a social scientist studying Fair Trade on a Fulbright in Peru. Personal anecdotes and interviews with coffee growers, importers, and exporters, as well as Andean cultural leaders, Limeña intellectuals, business people, professors, writers, and anyone else I meet on the journey. Fair Trade as both an alternative to the dominant model of globalization and as a way of life that is practiced by an increasing number of people who testify to its great benefits.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

just back from Alto Shambuyacu!

Allima punchaw waukikuna panikuna! (Good morning brothers and sisters! in Quechua) Just returned from 4 days visit to native community Alto Shambuyacu! Wonderful time it was. Just some highlights - harvesting coffee in the morning, lunching in the tambo (cottage) of one of the socios (members) of the co-op, with some mishkichado (honey and cane liquor) ... harvesting organic rain-fed rice from the field and then finding our way back through the creek where we picked snails and crabs for dinner (mmmm! sauteed snail! delicious!) ... building the wall of a house of mud and straw, stomping around in it barefoot to get a plasterlike paste ... parties and talent show every night with singing and dancing, Gabe and I played some jazz and the local band played their traditional tunes while we danced - Gabe, Zoe, Julia, and Becky performed a spontaneous dance - the Vice President of the co-op, who lives in the community, sang - they staged a mock Carnival with mask dance - we all acted out our trip in improv theater - I sat in with the band the last day for the going-away party... baking traditional breads, rosquitas (from yuca flour), puchku (yuca and corn with sugar, fermented 1 hour with corn beer called chicha and baked in the earthen oven), and biscochuelo (a kind of pound cake made with 60 eggs!) ... planting trees on the last day - I planted two mahogany trees - we all became godparents... I am the godfather of the two children of our host family. Amazing host family, Ronald and Betty and their kids Jonathan (9 years) and Cindi Pilar (19 days!) ... Ronald is ex president of the sectoral committee for the co-op from the town ... Betty is the ex president of the co-op´s women´s committee ... the new sector president is Manuel, a great person, so relaxed and welcoming to all of us. More about this experience later - it is a great beginning of something I think will last a long time. Love to everyone!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Enjoying Lamas!

Hey everyone! I´ve been spending the last 2 weeks TAing for a Living Routes course on Fair Trade, native culture, and ecology here in Lamas, in the northern part of Peru. For details please check out our website: http://www.livingroutes.org and search for the Peru course. It´s a great group of students and it´s been a lot of fun. We´ve spent the last 3 days with Dean Cycon, pioneering Fair Trader and founder of coffee roaster Dean´s Beans: http://www.deansbeans.com. Dean has generously shared with us fifteen years of knowledge and experience in the Fair Trade coffee business, in three four-hour lectures jam-packed with information, passion, personal narrative, and social critique.

Dean and Oro Verde, the coffee co-op we´re working with here in Lamas, have just reached a historic agreement - the first written long-term (i.e., multiyear) Fair Trade contract between a roaster and a co-op. Way beyond a higher price, this agreement spells out a series of mutual projects - in the areas of product diversification, marketing, environmental protection, and community development - that Dean and Oro Verde are going to do together. With the help of Dean and Oro Verde, our study group will write a draft of this agreement, and research and explain every element of it - the economic, social, environmental, and cultural issues and personal stories that lie behind the projects. In this way, we will help make visible to our colleagues and friends in the North the previously invisible lives of the growers. We´re psyched!

Well, there´s a lot more to tell, but no time to tell it just now. I ended up spending over a month there in Pangoa, from November 21 to December 23, and learned a ton about cooperatives, coffee, organic agriculture, local ecology, and Fair Trade - among other things! You´ll hear it all in good time.