• Sunday, October 26, 2014
  • A program of IPS Inter Press Service supported by the Dutch MDG3 Fund

    A Flavour of Nature, but Better

    Inocencia Chipana shows off her coffee beans. Credit: Milagros Salazar

    Inocencia Chipana shows off her coffee beans. Credit: Milagros Salazar

    Milagros Salazar

    PUTINA PUNCO: It’s Saturday and the women hurry in to the cooperative’s warehouse in this rural town in southeastern Peru carrying huge bags of coffee beans on their backs.

    It’s a proud burden. Indigenous men and women in this region of Peru produce beans that won an award this year for the best specialty coffees.

    The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) selected the Tunki beans grown by Wilson Sucaticona, a young farmer from Putina Punco, as one of the nine best coffees of the year at the Roasters Guild Coffees of the Year competition. Tunki coffee was also picked for the London coffee fair.

    The success has grown out of harmonizing with nature, and with support from the U.S.-based Conservation International, which promotes sustainable practices among coffee farmers in Peru’s Upper Tambopata valley to the north of Lake Titicaca.

    The quality of the beans improved as the farmers adopted measures ensuring sustainable production of fair trade coffee. And to help obtain international certification of the coffee, CECOVASA, the organisation of coffee-growers cooperatives in the Sandia Valleys, began to promote gender equality as well. As a result, 30 percent of the 5,000 cooperative members are now women.

    María Ramos, 56, is one of the women farmers who has come out of her shell. She previously headed CECOVASA’s women’s development committee, of which she is now vice-president.

    Ramos has been used to hard work since the age of seven, when her father taught her to pick coffee beans. She has spent more than three decades producing coffee without artificial fertilisers, and has won two regional awards. In December, her beans were among the winners of the Cupping for Quality competition featuring Rainforest Alliance-certified coffees.

    Ramos, like other coffee farmers in the area, followed the advice she was given to plant timber-yielding trees on her farm to reforest damaged land and provide shade for the coffee bushes. The fertiliser she uses comes from kitchen vegetable waste, the outer fruit of the coffee beans, and the feces of the guinea pigs she raises. She uses no chemical products.

    Everything on the farm is recycled, everything is neat and orderly, and just about everything is green, except the ripe coffee beans, which are bright red. “We have to care for the environment, for the sake of everyone’s lives,” Ramos says.

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