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We separated into two groups yet again to deliver workshops and facilitate the drafting of business plans. Anastasiya and Barbara headed to the coastal province of Sechura while Malorie and Ted ventured further out to the mountainous province of Ayabaca. The city of Ayabaca is at an altitude of more than 2,000 meters. To get there we spent two hours on paved roads, breezing through customs checkpoints because of the regional government insignia on our pickup truck. The checkpoints are set up to prevent oil from being illegally brought in from Ecuador to be sold at a discount in Peru. When we arrived at the base of the mountain, we split onto dirt roads and drove up up switchbacks to the top where we were confronted with a much different environment than in the city of Piura. Apart from the more traditional dress, our first meeting with our local stakeholder made it apparent that the rhythm of life and subsequently of business is much slower. Plans are made and changed extemporaneously. 

There is something about the food here in Piura that easily makes us, used to an American diet, sick. Ted had a fever and was sick for two days over the weekend and Malorie was fighting off what we would later find out was a somewhat serious bacterial infection. My theory is that it has to do with the freshness of the food. There are no chemicals in the food and it is not processed. Although it sounds better, adjusting to it can be a painful process as we found out.

On our first site visit in the remote coffee growing region of Rodeopampa, our eyes were opened to an unexpected business reality. The town and 45 hectares of coffee growing operates in what is primarily a barter economy, where, with little access to markets to sell their goods, they were offered daily use goods in exchange for the coffee beans they harvested. This made it extremely difficult to define operational costs. Should our unit of currency be cooking oil, bags of rice, or coffee beans? Fortunately costs for growing coffee in the region are fairly universal, and we were able to develop a rough idea of what their costs were by comparing it to other business plans on coffee. In talking with community producers, we discovered that their primary concerns were that they lacked sufficient water, the arrival of the plague that was killing crops, and that they wanted a way out of poverty.

On our second site visit, we visited a beautiful mountain valley community situated in the heart of the Andean Sierra. With sugar cane all around, this site looked more promising. However, in arriving we discovered that the problem was that there was no one there. No one had received the radio message that we were coming and so we talked with the village elder who explained what he knew about the operations and we visited the bull powered cane press. There is huge demand from Germany and Switzerland for the organic sugar they produce in the region. The problem is that sugar production requires significant machinery and is fairly capital intensive. In such a remote region, the other problem is, how do you get your product to market? The current method is to load it onto donkeys to be transported to the town of Ayabaca.

PROCOMPITE and the government exist to facilitate growth through implementation of initiatives. The goal is to stimulate sustainable growth. In seeing the examples we saw in Ayabaca, investing $USD 100,000 could be the answer to help them elevate their position within the supply chain, but with minimal organizational capacity will they ever actually be profitable? The PROCOMPITE team in Piura is divided as to whether it would be better to help already profitable businesses to gain access to finances that would make them competitive internationally and indirectly stimulate growth (trickle down) or to help small producers catch up through investment that helps them rise out of poverty. It is a difficult question that we do not have an answer to.

Hoping for a good turnout in workshop participants, Ted sought the help of a local shaman.