Arbor Day Coffee

Coffee, Microfinance, and Journeying Through Peru

By Jared Carlson | March 3, 2016

For the second year in a row, I journeyed with a group of Elon University students to Peru to meet with shade-grown coffee farmers around the community of Jaén. The trip was part of a class offered through the university entitled Sustainable Development: Microfinance and Agriculture in Peru.

DSC_0024We had a few goals during our time there. The first was a series of community meetings to talk through what working with the Arbor Day Foundation would look like—how we can help improve production, why forming a co-op would be beneficial, and how they can receive a higher price for their coffee. Approximately 85 farmers came to these meetings, and in turn, we visited their farms.

The second goal was to get feedback from the farmers about what their largest expenses are and what we could help provide through a microfinancing program. We heard about the desire to plant more trees, purchase organic fertilizers, install drying beds to improve quality, and even supply food for their families between harvests.

 

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A soil sampling analysis

The students had a very scientific third goal. They collected soil samples at the farms we visited and analyzed them to help the farmers understand what nutrients are in their existing soil and how they could amend it for better production. They saw a wide variety of soil types from farm to farm.

In addition to all of the critical information they were collecting for their classwork, the students also gathered plenty of life-changing experiences. It has been powerful to watch their outlook on the world change—to see how these farm families who have very little are so quick to give what they do have to give us a warm reception. They welcomed us, fed us, and most certainly humbled us. It’s a wonderful culture that I’m very glad they had the opportunity to be immersed in…if only for a short time.

 

Here are just a few additional snapshots to give you a peek into our journey.

 

Guinea pig is a primary meat source for Peruvian families, but meat is not eaten daily.

Guinea pig is a primary meat source for Peruvian families, but meat is not eaten daily.

The students enjoyed their time with the children.

The students enjoyed their time with the children.

Something as seemingly simple as crossing a river was an adventure here.

Something as seemingly simple as crossing a river was an adventure here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We had the opportunity to tour a coffee processing plant in Jaén.

Everyone got involved in whipping the egg whites for Rompope, an eggnog-like drink enjoyed by Peruvians.

Everyone got involved in whipping the egg whites for Rompope, an eggnog-like drink enjoyed by Peruvians.

Sometimes the trails got a bit tight as we hiked to the farms.

Sometimes the trails got a bit tight as we hiked to the farms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The students completed a 7-hour trek to see one of the largest waterfalls in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elon is a selective private liberal arts university in North Carolina renowned for engaged and experiential learning. This trip was part of a program that incorporated elements of microfinance and sustainable agriculture to help coffee farmers protect their lands while improving their economic conditions.

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2 Comments

  • Reply LeRoy Rock March 10, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    What an inspiring story! How encouraging to know that there are young people who are willing to make a difference and get out of their comfort zone. Keep up the good work!

  • Reply Stephanie K Longwell October 27, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    Humbling and captivating! How rewarding to know we are doing such impactful work to not only the farmers and their families but also to the future generations of sustainability efforts.

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