Building Coffee Farmer Resilience in Peru
A longtime Root Capital client, C.A.C. Chirinos coffee cooperative provides top-notch services to its members in the Cajamarca region of Peru and premium coffee to specialty buyers in the United States and Europe. Confronted with challenges like climate change and market volatility, C.A.C. Chirinos has taken many proactive measures to ensure the continued resilience, productivity and profitability of its 600 members.
Client Profile: C.A.C. CHIRINOS
Perched high atop a steep mountain in the lush Cajamarca region of northern Peru sits the proud town of Chirinos. Boasting a modern church and brand-new municipal building that serve as bookends to a well-manicured central plaza, the veritable coffee town hums with signs of economic development and a strong sense of community.
Hours from Jaén, the nearest hub, Chirinos’s vibrancy stems from an aptly named coffee cooperative: La Prosperidad de Chirinos (C.A.C. Chirinos)—or, in English, the Prosperity of Chirinos—a Root Capital client since 2004.
With roots tracing back to the late 1960s, C.A.C. Chirinos initially sold its coffee on the local market, bringing only modest profits, at best, to its members. In the early 2000s, that began to change. Root Capital financing, and the dynamic leadership of general manager Lenin Tocto, helped the cooperative begin selling its high-quality coffee for premium prices to fair trade, organic and specialty buyers in the United States and Europe. Today, C.A.C. Chirinos boasts a membership of 600 famers—six times larger than it was only a decade ago.
Recognizing the need for preemptive action against aging, vulnerable coffee trees and the roya fungus damaging cooperative members’ farms at lower elevations, C.A.C. Chirinos has begun offering services to invest in its members’ resilience and the long-term sustainability of its core business, coffee.
“We want to be more than a coffee cooperative,” says Tocto. “We want to offer multiple services, and engage in activities that go hand-in-hand with coffee, to benefit our members and their families.”
One such investment in resilience and increased farm productivity is an on-premises, state-of-the-art organic fertilizer plant, financed partially by Root Capital. Called Pachakushi, a Quechua word meaning “happy soil,” the cooperative’s fertilizer not only saves members money but also helps them fortify soil, manage pests and increase their yields by up to 60 percent.
Since 2012, C.A.C. Chirinos has been working with Root Capital’s financial training team to ensure its suitability for a long-term loan for renovation, a process by which members will replace vulnerable coffee trees with stronger plants that can withstand the challenges of a changing climate. This financial training from Root Capital will enable C.A.C. Chirinos to provide internal credit to its members in order to purchase new coffee plants, grown at the cooperative’s own nursery.
C.A.C. Chirinos’s emphasis on supporting member farmers has been at the heart of the cooperative’s success over the past several years and will fuel the focus on resilience for years to come. “The cooperative has really supported the economic growth of families in Chirinos,” Tocto explains. “In the last few years, I have seen many families invest in their children’s education and make improvements to their homes.”
Looking forward, C.A.C. Chirinos has been exploring the viability of expanding into cocoa, farm-raised trout, small animals and other livestock for income diversification and food security purposes. As the cooperative prepares for the future, continued investment in health, technology, organic gardening and youth leadership programs remains paramount.
C.A.C. Chirinos’s investment in youth is a smart strategy for building long-term resilience, at a time when many of the children of coffee farmers are turning away from their parents’ way of life. Providing opportunities for members’ children to learn about and apprentice at the cooperative, C.A.C. Chirinos attracts and retains some of Chirinos’s best and brightest, including Tocto, who explains that it was the opportunity to serve his community that drew him back to his hometown.
“After university, I came back just to visit and now have been here for nine years,” Tocto says. “In that time, so much has changed with the cooperative and it’s my job to make sure our farmers are happy and help Chirinos develop and grow, little by little.”