Jaime Javier Medina Peña, belongs to the indigenous community El Ñagazu in the central Peruvian Jungle. As a member of the organizing committee of the Yaneshas Producers’ Association, he is responsible for taking important decisions that affect the lives of his community of more than 150 families. Jaime has been a coffee producer for most of his life, working mainly on his wife´s inherited land. He is proud of his community and their ways of working – unlike other coffee farm regions, the Nagazu community operates via Ayni, the system of shared labor in which community members don´t pay each other for their labor, but instead rotate their efforts among the whole community, in a mutual exchange of support and cooperation.
Finally a good price
4 children, 3 grandchildren, and 15 years later, Jaime feels that the community is finally receiving a fair price for their coffee. “Since we started working with Villa Rica, we have a good price for our coffee, not like before, when we could only sell to intermediaries at the prices they wanted to pay. We know that the cooperative cares about our community, about our future, and that means we have a say in what decisions the cooperative makes that affect us, the members.”
“We know that the cooperative cares about our community, about our future, and that means we have a say in the decisions the cooperative makes.”
Jaime´s “chakra” (farm), is pretty typical for the region: he has plantain planted around his crops for extra income, and grows much of his food, such as vegetables and some fruits. He and his wife also have several chickens, “cuyes” (guinea pigs), and pigs. This helps them plan for income throughout the year, but they acknowledge it isn´t easy to plan their expenses for the whole year. When asked how he knows whether he profited or not during the harvest, he says simply: “whatever is left over. If there is money left, it was a good season.”
This reaction is reminiscent of most members of his community, but it is also something that the cooperative his association belongs to, is trying hard to change. The General Manager reflects: “Creating a long term mindset for our members is an important activity that our technical assistance team carries out. This is implicit in each training: we must anticipate and reduce the impact of climate change, or plan out the control and fertilization labors, or simply take note and write down costs and expenses throughout the season”.
The cooperative spirit
The work of the cooperative in the region has definitively impacted the incomes of its producers. Thanks to the FAF, the cooperative is better able to plan ahead itself – by negotiating better prices with its buyers and being able to wait out the payment of the exported coffee. “The producer always needs us to pay him immediately. But this way we can pay him, yet also wait to sell, negotiating the best offer”, says the GM of the cooperative.
For Jaime, the best part of belonging to a cooperative is the cooperative spirit in itself. Each organization has its own type of “Ayni”. The shared respect and mutualism present in each of its members propels them forward into a vision of an empowered group of producers, with lofty goals, yet pragmatic, down to earth. Once harvest at a time.