A problem for many of CPF’s producer partners is an aging membership coupled with a lack of young people with the skills needed to take over from the older generation. The Frontera San Igacio co-operative in Peru has developed an innovative solution to this challenge, by developing an apprenticeship scheme for young people.
The initiative, called “Young Rural Entrepreneurs – We Are Ready!”, received funding from CPF’s Producer Partnership Programme and identified 26 young people from the local community to take part in a year-long training programme. This programme was designed to equip them with everything they need to grow and sell coffee as a sustainable source of income.
Kely Caballero Águila was one of the young rural entrepreneurs who took part in the programme. She was twenty-eight years old when she began the programme and living with her father in the town of San Ignacio, northern Peru. Having studied agriculture at university she was already very passionate about growing coffee, and was keen to take part in the programme to gain practical experience to support her academic knowledge.
“I learned a lot” she said, “I learned about the reality of the countryside.” Along with the other participants, Kely took part in workshops about soil, fertilizer, pests, diseases and coffee processing. Practical sessions in the country enabled the group to put their newly-acquired knowledge into practice. For Kely, this was the best part: “through the practical sessions, you learn a lot. It was different, much better than theory – I learned what agriculture really is.”
The unpredictable climate in this region of Peru sometimes made attending the sessions challenging, but Kely describes how she would dress in waterproof clothing and boots before walking up to two hours to reach the demonstration sites.
As the only woman in the group, Kely said the other participants sometimes questioned her ability to take part, especially in terms of the more practical aspects of the programme. “They would ask me ‘what are you going to do in the country?’” she recounts, “but I wanted to prove that women can take part, learn the same things as men, can do everything that men can do.”
Her perseverance, however, paid off when she was one of five participants who were given a paid job with the co-operative. Kely is now working as an Internal Inspector, which involves supporting members of the co-operative to help them improve the standard of their coffee, as well as monitoring their general living standards including access to water, a telephone and electricity.
Aside from her job with the co-operative, Kely is also growing her own coffee on a hectare of land which her father recently gave to her. She says that a lot of work is needed to improve the quality of the land, however thanks to the training and experience she has received, she now has the skills to make this possible.