Cajamarca is one of Peru's main coffee exporting regions. But the sector does not take this success for granted. The crisis caused by COVID-19 challenged the organisations in the value chain to find ways to continue with the practices of social, economic and environmental innovation that make coffee the basis of the economy of many families in the area. This is how the Cajamarca Coffee Multi-Stakeholder Platform was born, a public-private initiative that is aligned with the National Coffee Action Plan and the efforts of the Regional Coffee Technical Commission in the region.
Rikolto accompanies this space in which fourteen organisations are participating, including the Regional Government of Cajamarca, the Regional Technical Coffee Commission, the Provincial Municipality of San Ignacio, the Jaén-San Ignacio-Bagua Special Project, Senasa, Sierra y Selva Exportadora, Sernanp, Rainforest Alliance, Cassiopeia Speciality Coffee Roasters, the Northern Technical Network Cenfrocafé and the cooperatives La Prosperidad de Chirinos, Casil and Unicafec.
At the recent launch of the initiative, Lith Montés, our coffee project coordinator in Peru, explained how it started just a few months into the coffee season and during the pandemic, its next steps and the opportunities it represents for the coffee sector in the region.
Lith: At the end of 2019, the Regional Technical Commission for Coffee in Cajamarca was looking for partners to develop its activities.
Rikolto supported some of them and participated in meetings, initiating conversations to strengthen this public space. In early 2020, Rikolto, the commission and a group of coffee organisations from the north proposed creating an expanded space for collaboration between public and private sector actors. After prioritising common working points, a tripartite agreement was signed in March of that year between the commission, the Technical Network of the North (which provides services to cooperatives) and Rikolto to form the regional multi-stakeholder platform.
The pandemic changed the original scenarios, but the process of setting up the platform started in four phases. To build the space, we held dialogues in the territory with 40 organisations to find out the priorities of each link in the chain and to identify those who were willing to work for the sustainability of the region.
Once the platform was convened, the next step was to define the governance system. For the third phase, work priorities were agreed upon based on the needs of the territory and organisations, considering the 2019-2030 National Action Plan for Peruvian Coffee as a frame of reference. The platform started activities during 2020.
"This year we are moving to create evidence. We have regular meetings as an assembly, presided over by a coordination committee made up of Rikolto, the Regional Technical Coffee Commission, Cenfrocafé, Senasa and the Northern Technical Network. The platform works in specialised committees and one of the members has the role of facilitator, funded by Rikolto."
Currently, members of the platform are the Regional Government of Cajamarca, the Regional Technical Coffee Commission, the Provincial Municipality of San Ignacio, Midagri through the Special Project Jaén-San Ignacio-Bagua, Senasa, Sierra, Selva Exportadora, Minam through Sernanp - Santuario Nacional Tabaconas Namballe, Rikolto, Rainforest Alliance, the Australian company Cassiopeia Speciality Coffee Roasters, the Red Técnica del Norte Cenfrocafé, and the cooperatives La Prosperidad de Chirinos, Casil and Unicafec. However, membership is open to all actors in the coffee value chain.
Lith: To articulate the coffee sector to manage opportunities, improve services for the chain and address common problems. This will improve the living conditions of coffee-growing families and the sustainability of the sector in the region. The idea is that this will take place in a scenario where both the productive and the associative aspects have been addressed.
The platform's work focuses on productive and quality management, social and economic management, environmental management, institutional strengthening and advocacy. As a collective, we want to turn Cajamarca's coffee sector into a national reference point
The national plan is our guiding document for prioritising activities in Cajamarca, although we adapt it to the territory. For example, issues such as resistant varieties to accelerate productivity, professionalisation of producer organisations and competitiveness are part of the platform's priorities. Besides, the actions organised by the platform will report to the newly created National Executive Coffee Council. The platform will support the implementation of actions in the region and the actions of the Regional Coffee Agenda, a strategy followed by the Council in the prioritised coffee-growing regions.
Lith: In the context of the pandemic, we realised that we had grown a lot in terms of commercialisation and productivity, but had neglected basic services and financial services. Seeking out the most emblematic organisations to join the platform has been a special emphasis of the initiative.
"COVID-19 has allowed us, as actors in the chain, to reflect on what motivated us to launch the initiative, and to rethink what we are really looking for when talking about sustainability in the coffee sector. For this reason, our starting point in the process was to listen to and incorporate farmers' organisations as the protagonists of change in the region."
A major challenge has been to create trust among actors in the region. It is difficult to do this virtually, but the platform started with farmers' organisations that have a trajectory in the area and that could lead by example.
During 2020, many organisations (including those that belonged to the platform) allocated credits to improve health, implemented protocols even though they created higher costs, and respected the quarantine decreed by the government.
Partnerships have been important in this period, bringing together the public and private sectors. The Technical Network of the North, an organisation that played a facilitating role in setting up the platform in 2020, brings together 27 technicians who work with different cooperatives and help us at the territorial level.
This allowed us to establish links between the work of the members of the platform and the committees set up by Covid-19. To coordinate with the committees, public and private organisations put aside their institutional priorities to work together on the common problem.
Lith: We have a National Coffee Action Plan to which we are aligned, a Platform Action Plan, a connection with the main government entities at the regional-local level, and great prospects because the region has a lot to offer: a coffee research centre, companies and processing plants. The idea of the platform is to keep growing: to attract a whole network of actors under a common vision. We are consolidating partnerships together.
"The platform aims to create for the sector what some call "virtuous coffee", which benefits the present and the future of all actors in the chain."
During 2020, several activities began, such as a campaign against the CBB and a plan to raise awareness of the use of non-permitted products (e.g. herbicides), support for the World Coffee Research global variety trial, a unified registration system for producers of member organisations, studies on the environmental footprint (emissions and capture) and scaling up of the experience with member organisations, generation of evidence on water honey, among others.
This year, the collective will continue with this commitment and will promote the profitability of the crop for producer families as well as the improvement of services in the localities.