Specialty coffee agroforestry farmers Field School in the Pasco region, Peru
By Susana Contreras Sega, 2022 GEN Seed Funding Recipient
In my family, coffee is a drink that has always been drunk. It has accompanied us in many family breakfasts and lunches. If there was a birthday and we organize a breakfast, then coffee could not be missing. Just as in the case of my family, other families and people also include coffee in their daily lives. For this reason, coffee has become the second most consumed beverage on the planet, only surpassed by water. It sounds incredible! This demand for coffee in the world, in addition to creating jobs and contributing to the economy of many households, has also generated pressure on the natural resources of producing countries, as Peru.
In Peru, coffee is the main export product. In this crop, approximately 223,000 families who manage more than 425,000 hectares find their main economic livelihood. Coffee cultivation in Peru expands in 15 of its 24 regions, but only 7 of them, where the Pasco region stands out, concentrate 91% of the total number of producers and the cultivable area.
In Peru, coffee is grown in the inter-Andean valleys and extends throughout the eastern band of the Andes mountain range, called the high-jungle. Specialty coffees, which have a higher value in the market for their complex, rich aromas and flavours, require special geographic conditions and climates to be cultivated. These conditions generally occur in high areas that border or encompass cloud forests. Can you imagine what is happening, then? If the demand for conventional coffee already threatened forest ecosystems, the demand for specialty coffees makes it even more critical, since it puts pressure on already fragmented ecosystems that provide important ecosystem services, such as water regulation. And, as long as coffee remains the second most consumed beverage worldwide and its production is not entirely sustainable, this pressure on forests will continue.
Fortunately, there are ways to grow coffee that harmonize with the environment and that bring additional benefits to coffee-growing families. I am talking about agroforestry. Agroforestry consists of the integration of trees in farms, so as to increase the social, economic and environmental benefits for the producing families and the community.
The Field Schools, as a methodology for transferring and strengthening capacities, are horizontal in approach and under the premise of “learning by doing”.
In my country there are numerous successful experiences of agroforestry with coffee, but it is not an activity that is considered very widespread or that is always carried out correctly. To counteract this, it is necessary to promote agroforestry and strengthen the sustainable practices already carried out by coffee-growing communities. In this sense, finding the most effective way possible to promote this technology is important, which is why field schools are presented as the best option. The Field Schools, as a methodology for transferring and strengthening capacities, are horizontal in approach and under the premise of “learning by doing”. These schools give high importance to field work, facilitating the exchange of experiences and knowledge among the participants.
As a person and professional who values nature and admires the wisdom of the families who live with and in forests, I find very motivating to carry out this project. Of course, it is not a job that I can do alone, far from it, so with the help of my colleagues from Cultivar Coffees, the company where I work, and with the technical support of the NGO Envol-Vert, we will create an Agroforestry Field School to specialty coffee producers in the Pasco region. We hope that the creation of this Field School provides the necessary tools so that producer families can continue to dedicate themselves to coffee growing despite the years, without negatively impacting nature, but rather restoring it. Finally, due to the importance that roasters worldwide give to the sustainability of the production of the coffee they roast, transmitting the story of this field school and of the families involved, assures them a market and strengthens the trust with their customers.
This project, Field School of agroforestry farmers of specialty coffee in the district of Villa Rica, Pasco region, is being carried out by GEN member Susana Contreras Sega, and is supported through GEN Seed Project funding.