Farewell to Jaén

It has been an emotional week to say goodbye to Jaén. When the bus pulled off from Jaén bus station, the flashback of the passing six weeks in this small Peruvian northern city was playing in both of our minds…There are many wonderful people and things to recognize here in this blog entry. First of all, we would like to express our appreciation to the CENFROCAFE staff for their hospitality and support to coordinate all the interviews, campo visits and focus group meetings.

Our farewell party at CENFROCAFE office

Our farewell party at CENFROCAFE office

Second of all, big thanks to the smallholder coffee producers who participated in our study and presented their home and parcels to help us better understand their needs for each adaptation strategies of our research. Finally, we want to thank our sponsor, Counter Culture Coffee for initiating the whole project and supporting this summer research trip. We have learned a lot in Jaén not only for our Master’s Project, but also for our lives.

3 of 35 Thank You Cards that we have made for CENFROCAFE staff and producers

3 of 35 Thank You Cards that we have made for CENFROCAFE staff and producers

All the mountain views were behind us as entering another northern costal city, Chiclayo. Thanks to its geographic location, the city is famous for its ceviche. We took a 1-day break to experience this precious Peruvian gastronomical product. At the same time, our friend, Omar from CENFROCAFE took us to the museum of Tumbas Reales de Señor de Sipán to learn about this great ancient period in the Peruvian history before the Inca period.

Selfies and pictures we took in Chiclayo and on our way to Lima

Selfies and pictures we took in Chiclayo and on our way to Lima

After a day and half in Chiclayo, we took an early flight to Lima where we continue onto the third step of our research, Key Actors Interviews (KAIs). By the time of posting this blog, we have done more than 10 KAIs with staffs and leaders from organizations at regional level (Agencia Agraria de Jaén y de San Ignacio), at national level (Ministerio de Agricultura y Riego- DDTA, DIGNA y INIA, Junta National del Café, SENASA, and FINCyT / Innóvateperu), and at international level (Rainforest Alliance). The key actors are very resourceful and knowledgeable about their areas relating to our three strategies. One of our interviewees from INIA (National Institute of Agricultural Innovation), an organization undergoing a reformation itself, shared his opinions on our strategies and his innovative ideas on tree nurseries and seed research technologies. The whole interview was not only a 2-hour KAI, also a private biotech class from a national leading professor!

Discussion session KAIs (top) KAI with Innovateperu (bottom left) Selfie at JNC Lima office (bottom right)

Discussion session KAIs (top)
KAI with Innovateperu (bottom left)
Selfie at JNC Lima office (bottom right)

Well, sometimes the interviews gave us some surprises like the one on Tuesday due to communication complications. We were expecting to have an interview with an engineer from MINAGRI- DDTA and were informed that there might be 2 more staff members who would join us. However, when we walked in the meeting room 10 minutes late after went through Lima’s typical terrible traffic, there were 10 people from 4 different MINAGRI sub-organizations waiting for us to deliver a presentation. It caught us unprepared. Thus, we quickly adjusted our interview strategy to a group discussion session with them. The outcome surpassed our expectations. The leaders and staff gave us their direct views on the strategies and the projects that their organizations have been doing or planning to do in the future. Moreover, from the active discussion among them, we realized the conflictive interests on particular issues and on some of the strategies, so political/ institutional problems would require more of our attention for the feasibility study.

While dazzled by the food and seduced by shopping malls in Lima, we still have 5 more days and 4 more potential interviews here. After all the KAIs, we are planning to do some data organization and have some preliminary results for our reflective blog coming next week. Then, we will pack our bags and put on our touristy hats heading to Cusco/Machu Picchu. Until next time and hasta Cusco!

Food that we had and cooked in Chiclayo and in Lima

Food that we had and cooked in Chiclayo and in Lima

Jennifer & Zafíra (aka J-Z:D)

Smell, Brew, Break, Clean, Taste, and Score…

Two things happened during the last week…

  • Happy 239th birthday to Los Estados Unidos de America!
  • We want to congratulate Peru’s national team for winning “Copper Medal” in Copa America 2015. Thanks for an amazing and exciting game!
Jennifer (left) and Sapphire (right) riding motorcycles  Scenic view on the way to San Ignacio (center)

Jennifer (left) and Sapphire (right) riding motorcycles
Scenic view on the way to San Ignacio (center)

Since our last entry, we have been busy with traveling to the campos and visiting the associations at CENFRO’s different networks. Six focus group meetings have been conducted in provinces of Chirinos, Huabal and San Ignacio. From the meetings, we have learned from and discussed with the producers about our three adaptation strategies which are 1) financing solar driers; 2) local tree nursery and/or seed bank; 3) self-monitoring of plague and other diseases on different varieties of coffee. The preliminary results from the six groups so far are as follows:

  • The majority of the producers showed great interest in having solar driers at their farms/parcels. They requested to have more information on the effectiveness of each solar dryer model; financing opportunities including credits and funds from cooperatives or other financial institutes; and existing and future related projects in their or surrounding communities.
  • For the strategy of tree nursery and seed bank, the producers from the meetings expressed their concerns over the feasibility of building a tree nursery at local level due to the need of complex logistics. However, seed bank idea has been in favor of the coffee smallholders and drawn more attentions and discussions.
  • The producers are mostly interested in helping monitoring plague and other diseases on their plants for effectively control the aggressive plague hits during the current years. Some producers suggested to include some self-monitoring forms to their Cuadernos (a standard record-organizing notebook that CENFRO distributes to its members). They expressed their willingness to spend 10-30 minutes of their time every week to write about the plague condition at their farms. However, some of the farmers said that there was no existing plague problem at their farms and it would be unnecessary to have additional obligations besides daily-caring coffee plants and harvesting.
A socia talking about her Cuaderno (left) Beautiful flower outside the meeting room (center) Lovely Jennifer facilitating Community Asset Mapping (right)

A socia talking about her Cuaderno (left)
Beautiful flower outside the meeting room (center)
Lovely Jennifer facilitating Community Asset Mapping (right)

We are excited about the range of responses from the producers and looking forward to analyze the feasibility of each strategy.

One thing that stood out to us during the focus group meetings was that producers were proud about their coffee quality scoring over 80. We nodded and smiled with them, but neither of us understood the true meaning of a score of 80. Thus, we scheduled a visiting to the CENFROCAFE’s Laboratory for a cupping tour. Big thanks to the Head of Laboratory, Alex, and the beautiful secretary, Flor for arranging the visit for us!

Posing for CENFROCAFE products at San Ignacio Office (left) Sign of CENFROCAFE Coffee Quality Control Laboratory (center) Selfie with beans before their “quality tests” at Bagua Processing Plants (right)

Posing for CENFROCAFE products at San Ignacio Office (left)
Sign of CENFROCAFE Coffee Quality Control Laboratory (center)
Selfie with beans before their “quality tests” at Bagua Processing Plants (right)

Coffee cupping (aka coffee tasting) is the process of grading the coffee quality by observing its taste and aroma. The basic steps are:

  • Smell the aroma of roasted dry coffee beans and ground coffee;
  • Brew the ground coffee (each cup has 8.2 grams of coffee and the cupper brews them with hot water of 93°C/200°F);
  • Break the floating coffee grounds by stirring the coffee while smelling the “escaping” initial aroma of brewed coffee;
  • Clean the foam on the surface of each cup;
  • Taste each cup by taking a sip of coffee from each cup and scoring it by its flavor, aftertaste, acidity and overall body taste.

After the cupping experience, Alex also told us about the journey to become a qualified coffee cupper. He showed us the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA)’s coffee cupping aroma identification training kit, which is a set of vials with essences of flowers, scents of butter, and smells of seeds. Accompanying it is Le Nez de Café by Jean Lenoir. He also gifted us what we call the Cupping Bible: Volume I.

Alex pouring water into the cupping cups (far left) Jennifer and Sapphire doing “Break” step (center left) Jennifer and Sapphire tasting the coffee like professional cuppers (center right) SCAA coffee cupping aroma identification training kit (far right)

Alex pouring water into the cupping cups (far left)
Jennifer and Sapphire doing “Break” step (center left)
Jennifer and Sapphire tasting the coffee like professional cuppers (center right)
SCAA coffee cupping aroma identification training kit (far right)

By the time of posting this entry, we have finished all the focus group interviews. HOORAH! For the next three weeks, we will proceed to our Paso III (the 3rd step of study) interviewing key actors at the local, regional, and national level in Jaén for one more week and in Lima for two weeks. Thus, next time we will be “reporting” from Lima! Hasta Lima!

Moving on to Step 2…

Without realizing, we have been in Jaén for almost a month. As time goes by, our research work has extended to the coffee fields. Since our last blog entry, we have conducted 10 cooperative leader interviews to help us narrow down our list of recommendations from CCCMP1.0 team. Now, the 3 adaptation strategies that we are focusing on for our feasibility study are:

  • Monitoring pests and diseases: how plagues and other coffee plant diseases impacts different varieties, as well as tracking management, age and productivity of coffee plants;
  • Funding Solar Dryers: several interviewees from CENFRO have heard from the board (consejo de administración) that solar driers should be implemented for as many socios (members of CENFRO) as possible;
  • Local tree nurseries and/or seed banks of high quality coffee varieties: this would improve the quality and quantity of coffee with the more plague-resistant seeds and better shade management at the communities.
Coffee plants with Roya and insufficient fertilizer (Left) One model of solar dryer with calamina transparente (corrugated plastic sheets) (Right)

Coffee plants with Roya and insufficient fertilizer (Left)
One model of solar dryer with calamina transparente (corrugated plastic sheets) (Right)

The co-op leaders provided suggestions on the locations that we can visit and program community focus group interviews. Based on the altitudes of each location, 4 out of 12 CENFRO networks were chosen for our 8 focus group meetings (4 men groups and 4 women groups). The 4 areas including San Ignacio, Chirinos, Huabal and Amazonas, are underlined on the map below.

Map Hand-drawn by Sapphire

Map Hand-drawn by Sapphire

Special thanks to the production team of CENFRO and a visit from a lead auditor for Rainforest Alliance, we were able to tag along and had our first week of farm visits to the Chirinos and Huabal districts during the last week. There, we conducted the first 2 focus group interviews in the Chirinos area. Regarding the 3 adaptation strategies, the interviewees gave us their valuable opinions on benefits and barriers, current and needed resources, and other necessary information/training needed for implementing the strategies in their community. For the second part of the focus group interviews, the producers draw asset maps of their communities to help us better understand their needs specifically for each strategies.

Focus Group Community Asset Mapping Activity in Chirinos (Left) Itati, daughter of a socia, gave us drawings of her home (Right)

Focus Group Community Asset Mapping Activity in Chirinos (Left)
Itati, daughter of a socia, gave us drawings of her home (Right)

For the upcoming 3 weeks in Jaén, 3 field visits are on our schedule. Furthermore, we will meet with key actors from major organizations at both regional (Cajamarca) and national levels (Lima) to collect insights on the feasibility of implementing these 3 adaptation strategies.

Beautiful day to dry coffee and go to school (Left) Jennifer talking to the socio and his 2-yr old son (Right)

Beautiful day to dry coffee and go to school (Left)
Jennifer talking to the socio and his 2-yr old son (Right)

We love the people here in Jaén and really enjoy our visits to the campo. Not only are we collecting lots of information for our Master’s project, but we are learning a lot as well. Thanks for reading and until next time! 😀

¡Saludos desde Jaén!

We have been in Peru for 10 days. While settling down at our temporal home in Jaén, our summer research work has gradually unfolded…

On May 28th, we arrived in Lima. After two days of resting from the long flight ride, we took an 18-hour bus trip to the city of Jaén surrounded by the mountains of the northern part of Peru.

Views from La Plaza del Amor and Delicious Peruvian Food in Lima (Left) Gorgeous Mountain Views entering Jaén (Right)

Views from La Plaza del Amor and Delicious Peruvian Food in Lima (Left)
Gorgeous Mountain Views entering Jaén (Right)

After dropping off our luggage at Hotel Danubio, we visited CENFROCAFE office for a brief introductory meeting with the leaders, as well as had the first cup of coffee from CENFRO. 🙂

CENFROCAFE logo in the meeting room

CENFROCAFE logo in the meeting room

On Monday, June 1st, we delivered our presentation on last year’s research results to the leaders and members. With the list of recommendations, the leaders and members of CENFROCAFE agreed to meet us for individual interviews to share their feedback and help us moving the research work forward.

Presenting the CCCMP1.0 results to CENFROCAFE

Presenting the CCCMP1.0 results to CENFROCAFE

During this passing week, we have conducted 4 individual interviews. The leaders and members showed particular interests on solar dryer financing and plague-related strategies out of the 12 recommendations for CENFROCAFE. They also explained the reasons why the strategies are more feasible and practical.

Individual Interview with CENFRO leader

Individual Interview with CENFRO leader

For the upcoming week, the presidents and general managers of CENFRO have set up the interview appointment with us. With more feedback to come, we will narrow down our list and prepare for the focus group interviews in the next 6 weeks around Cajamarca region, as well as the 2-week key actor interviews in Lima at the end of July.

A beautiful day to dry coffee beans outside CENFRO office building

A beautiful day to dry coffee beans outside CENFRO office building