On a visit to Los Cuyes (near San Ignacio), Foundation coffee expert Jonathan Ferguson spent several days with Señor Wilman Nuñez — a coffee farmer, community leader, and owner of the only small market in the area. Jon was analyzing the coffee harvest in Peru to find ways to make the process more efficient and deliver a better quality product for the farmers. Wilman not only shared his coffee processing methods, techniques, and management practices but also his home, providing Ferguson a place to sleep while he was there.
During the tour, it became clear that Wilman was extremely diverse in his food production. In order to make ends meet, coffee farmers often rely on additional crops to offset food expenses which makes up for the majority of their annual budget. In addition to coffee, he grew produce such as avocado, lemon, orange, banana, potato, leafy greens, peppers, and grapes. He also had ducks, chickens, swine, and guinea pig (a regional delicacy).
Jon had the opportunity to help Wilman with the coffee harvest one of the mornings. The heat, insects, and slope made for a challenging work environment. It took him three hours to fill one latta, the equivalent of a five-gallon bucket. It took a local harvester three and a half hours to fill two lattas. (Payment for coffee picking is around $1.80 USD per latta, averaging to about $7.20 USD for an eight-hour day.)
The community struggles with a lack of sufficient access to water. During harvest, most of the water upstream is used for washing coffee, which is why Los Cuyes does not have enough water for properly washing coffee (or even bathing and/or drinking at times). To help combat this, Wilman has a tank reserve in his house and shares with others in the community when in need. During Jon’s time with Wilman, several children (4–6 years old) came into his kitchen with jugs during lunch asking for water.
Wilman was struggling to make ends meet, much more acutely than our culture typically permits us to imagine. Throughout the trip, however, he described his greatest need as more water—primarily to produce coffee in a manner that could increase the quality of their coffee production, yet also supply enough water for household needs.