The beginning

“I am more Peruvian than a potato” or the Spanish version of “soy más peruano que la papa” is a typical expression that Peruvians use to state the country of origin. Effectively, the potato was one the goods that our ancestors, the Inkas, cultivated in great amounts to feed their families. However, Peru is more than potatoes; it is a unique country in South America due to its diversity in flora and fauna. In flora, coffee is one of the traditional goods that has had a huge impact on the gross domestic product of Peru and the life of coffee farmers.

Peruvian coffee is one of the most unique products around the world because of the altitude at which it is produced. Cajamarca is one the regions in Peru where farmers have been producing organic coffee for decades. To be more specific, Jaen, Cutervo, and Utcubamba are some of the places in Cajamarca where farmers cultivate this great product.

Many years ago, coffee farmers used to sell their product to wholesalers and retailers, but now farmers are able to directly export their product. The wholesalers and retailers played a crucial role in the coffee supply chain at that time, but they took most of the profits. However, lately, coffee farmers have had the great idea to gather together to establish cooperatives. Under this method, they receive a better price for their coffee. One of the cooperatives is “Cooperativa Valle del Marañón” (also known as COOPVAMA) which is located in the city of Jaen, Peru. COOPVAMA started exporting unroasted green coffee to Europe, the United States, Canada, etc. in 2010, and it has helped over 350 farmers since then. My close family and neighbors are some of the members of the cooperative.

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My brother Juan (on the left) and I in 1999

Yes, I am more Peruvian than a potato. I was born in a small rural village in the north of Peru where I spent my childhood and youth. During that time, I had to balance the time for studying and working in the fields helping my parents cultivate coffee. Therefore, I am very aware of the hard work that it takes to produce coffee. Despite that I enjoyed working with my family on the coffee farms, I decided to pursue undergraduate and postgraduate studies instead. Now, I am really happy to mention that education has opened a lot of doors for me, and I am convinced that it is going to help me change the life of many people, mainly my people in Peru.

Being proactive, in December of 2016, I called the manager of COOPVAMA in Peru and asked him about the goals of the cooperative for the upcoming years. I was delighted to hear that it is not only about the exportation of unroasted green coffee at a fair price, but also additional benefits that farmers can have as being part of COOPVAMA.  Among the additional benefits are periodic health campaigns, technical assistance for the crops, and other projects that would improve the quality of life of the farmers. As a consequence of this call, I am now the Coffee Ambassador of COOPVAMA in the United States. I personally offered to volunteer for the cooperative because I wanted to use my connections in the United States to help Peruvian coffee farmers.

As a Coffee Ambassador, I am in charge of connecting roasters, coffee shops and importers that would be interested in the supply of Peruvian organic coffee. We are dreaming big, therefore, one of our goals is that our clients also would have a close relationship with the coffee farmers in Peru by visiting the fincas (crops of coffee) and learning step by step the production of coffee.  Finally, we are always looking for long-term business relationships where everyone wins (win-win relationships).