Brigitte Cerfontaine, SCAN International Program Manager, travelled to Pichanaki, Peru on May 18, 2015 to support the work currently being implemented through the Sustainable Development Model for Peruvian Coffee, a project jointly implemented by SCAN / JNC (Junta Nacional del Café) and IDB (Inter-American Development Bank).
According to the field promoters, the incidence of coffee leaf rust is going down, by using other varieties and by implementing good farm management practices. The rust has created an openness on the part of producers to participate in the training, and the rust crisis has led them to now see the need to invest in the management of their plantations to counteract the effect of Rust. Alfredo Casihue, a field promoter said: “The producers are hungry for training and are seeing results.”
One lesson learned was that coffee rust is not only mitigated through control measures, but it is equally important to have an integrated system of sustainable coffee production. This system includes the use of disease-resistant varieties (not just rust-resistant), and proper management of the coffee plants through good agricultural practices, focusing on the creation of healthy and fertile soil. This creates a system that is resistant to disease and other negative future events. So instead of being reactive to a disease outbreak or issues such as climate change, we must work in a coherent manner and create integrated agricultural systems to address climate change and its consequences.
The project is taking soil samples (which is a condition for coffee renewal), to interpret and create a fertilization plan based on the characteristics of the soil. The regions need people who can interpret the samples, so there will be training sessions for those who will be able to take on the job of interpreting and elaborating a fertilization plan for producers in the region.
There is a difference in interests among cooperatives that do not take into account the importance of improving the productive part but only focus on the business side. The technicians from the cooperatives have other tasks such as selling, certification, coffee storage, etc., and do not have enough time to fulfill their tasks in the agricultural area.
The system of working with the field promoters (leading producers) has worked best because they are producers who stay in the area with or without the project. The field promoters have their own “chacra” or farm plot as a demonstration plot, and they work part-time for the project and the rest of the time on their farm.
There should be standardized criteria among organizations working in the area, since the differences of opinion between different organizations that support the same farmer can create confusion. Thus the project has taken the lead in bringing together regional actors to agree on issues and coordinate plans.
This is a process that was designed to have an impact on cooperatives and developers to put more value on good agricultural practices that result in well-managed coffee farms. The result is the creation of sustainable and integrated systems, with varieties that are resistant to diseases and climate change.