Home Is Where the Heart Is

April 3, 2018 | Emilia, DVM, Uniterra, Peru, Alianza Cacao, Gender Communication Officer

A few months went by very quickly for me: in a 3-month internship, every day and every week counts. I became accustomed to a different lifestyle and I got to develop close relationships with colleagues, friends and neighbors. I think relationship-building has played a crucial role in my integration to the city. For me, it was part of the learning process to spend time with colleagues in the office, agronomists in the field and farming families on their land to understand the sociocultural context of the region and my role within the organization.

Data Collection with Technological Agents
I ventured into the beautiful Peruvian jungle during field visits to cocoa farms in the regions of San Martín and Huánuco. My main goal was to collect data for communication products with a gender focus. Starting with a video project, I interviewed women leaders in the cocoa industry to learn about their challenges, their successes and their overall experience in agriculture. I also wanted to know what benefits they received from Peru Cocoa Alliance (PCA) as cocoa farmers. I mainly learned that they appreciate the knowledge they acquired through the Schools of Excellence, the field days and personal visits from the organization’s agronomists to increase their productivity and quality in cocoa. Another assignment was to assess women farmers on their soft skills such as verbal communication, negotiation and conflict resolution. The data collected from these qualitative surveys will be used to adapt PCA activities and workshops to the farmers’ needs. The video project and surveys were targeted towards PCA technological agents which are a select group of cocoa farmers. They assist PCA Schools of Excellence during an 8-month period to learn about innovative farming techniques and technology such as integrated pest management, pruning, soil nutrition, and much more. PCA also works with technological agents to develop their soft skills and transfers knowledge on small business management. Additionally, the organization added a personal development component including self-confidence and a gender approach in the schools’ curriculum. The main role of technological agents is to generate a positive impact in their community by disseminating knowledge on farming techniques and technology. PCA also partners with businesses that sell farm machinery and nutrients to improve the quality of soil and increase cocoa production. Through the Schools of Excellence, the participants learn how to create their own businesses and become local distributors of the private partners’ products according to the market’s demand.

Cocoa in Regions Affected by Political Violence
I visited many cocoa farms in regions that were once strongly affected by political violence and terrorism. Through conversations with farmers, I was shocked to hear horror stories that happened in their communities. In many cases, farmers were pressured by drug traffickers on one end and threatened by the government for cultivating the coca leaf on the other end. A farmer told me about the oppression she felt when living in constant fear of being killed either by the government or by drug traffickers. She is a hard-working woman farmer dealing with psychological traumas of the past with no access to mental health services. This encounter generated a whole line of questioning for me and left me wondering what can be done in terms of human development for victims of political violence. It also helped me understand why cocoa production is so crucial for farmers in these regions. It is a product used to replace the production of coca leaves and to prevent the continuation of illicit activities. It offers an alternative market to increase farmers’ overall quality of life.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.