Last week, the Let’s Talk Coffee® Regional event in Peru brought together more than 110 people from over 30 Peruvian producer organizations for two days of training intended to help strengthen the Sustainable Harvest® supply chain. (Read more about the event here.) Sustainable Harvest® Relationship Coffee Manager Claudia Aleman was there to help lead the event, and she offers this report.
Beautiful Moyobamba was the ideal setting for the seventh edition of the Let’s Talk Coffee® Regional in Peru. As the event neared its start on Friday morning, a pleasant breeze—not to mention the smell of freshly brewed coffee—moved through the air as tall trees and a strip of green mountains formed the backdrop.
We were very excited to welcome over 30 Peruvian smallholder coffee organizations and stakeholders at the event, but as the 9 a.m. start time dawned, the rustic conference room was only half-full. Because we knew that many of the organizations’ managers, presidents, and cuppers were coming from long distances, we decided to delay the start time by 15 minutes to allow for their arrival.
And wow, did they ever arrive. A crowd of people suddenly formed a line at registration, and before we knew it, more than 110 participants filled the room—so many people, in fact, that we had to bring in extra chairs.
The Let’s Talk Coffee® Regional draws a reliably large crowd because the event is an informative educational platform for the Sustainable Harvest® supply chain—a place where our producers can measure their performance and define a clear set of goals for the upcoming harvest. Here we also have the opportunity to sit with each organization and review areas of improvement, ensuring that specific advancements will be made in the ensuing months.
It’s a very intimate event where we transparently discuss our needs from the Sustainable Harvest® perspective, but we also listen, laugh, and connect with the producer groups. They also connect with each other, and together we talk about shared challenges and form our suppliers into a like-minded, calibrated group working toward the same goals.
Things aren’t easy for producers in the modern coffee landscape: Every year is more challenging, as they face obstacles including climate change, volatile prices that are often less than their cost of production, fierce local competition, and a very demanding market. These producers know they have must continue to adapt and improve, and so they are eager to receive training and access to knowledge so that they may succeed in this environment.
Here are a few of the experiences we had with the producers—and the feedback they gave us—that helps illustrate the impact of the Let’s Talk Coffee® Regional:
- We delivered a price risk management workshop, which for many in the group was their first time receiving this information. As the first part of the session ended, we told the group they were welcome to either continue or to leave to attend another session. One cooperative president then told us: “We want to continue because we need to know this. We as presidents have never had this kind of information, and it helps us educate ourselves, guide the farmers, and support the work of our manager.”
- We held one-on-one meetings with the groups, where we presented them with their results from the year and explained how we measure their performance. Javier Dominguez, general manager of cooperative Sol & Café, surprised us with his reaction to the report: “This is great information, but we would like to get this kind of report every month or two months, not only at the end of the harvest. That way we can make the corrections sooner, as we identify areas of weakness and make improvements for the next shipments.” We were happy to receive this request, as it illustrates our producers’ commitment to our relationship and desire for improvement. We will begin to offer more frequent reports to our producer groups, and Peru will serve as our pilot country.
- It was very heartening to watch the bonds forming between our producer groups. At one point during the event, Pedro Rodriguez from ACPC Pichanaki—a group harshly impacted by Coffee Leaf Rust—expressed his organization’s need to make important improvements, and said the producers in attendance could improve collaboratively. Santos Chipana from the organization Chankas embraced this suggestion, saying: “Yes, we can get together and have an action plan to take care of the quality of our coffees. We will share resources and have a qualified cupper to cup all our coffees, and by doing this we can start to improve things little by little.” It was very encouraging to witness a desire for quality—achieved collaboratively—threaded throughout these suppliers.