Cooperativa Agraria Monte Azul was founded in 2015 in San Martin, Peru by small landholders to overcome issues in production and commercialization of coffee and cacao. As individuals, Monte Azul’s members could not fully access markets, but as part of Monte Azul, they can join forces and access bigger markets. Starting with just 20 members, Monte Azul now has 278 members distributed throughout 18 communities. Many members are now certified as Fair Trade, Organic, and EU, opening their market access even further.
Monte Azul’s primary goal is to become a modern and competitive business. They do so by focusing on their mission to develop their members’ and community’s socio-economic status through the production of organic and sustainable coffee and cacao. Most of Monte Azul’s farming households rely on coffee or cacao as their only source of income. The cooperative is also very involved in the community, organizing activities such as giving presents to the local children for the holidays.
While Monte Azul has seen growth since its founding, the cooperative’s members discovered their need for a business plan. To grow, reach business efficiency, communicate effectively, and seek partnerships, they needed outside assistance. Monte Azul wanted to establish an administrative structure, commercialize their products and services, analyze the market and competitors, discover their strengths and weaknesses, and revise their Human Resource and financial plans. While Monte Azul had worked on defining their mission and vision in the past, they found these items needed to be revised. The cooperative sought support from NCBA CLUSA’s USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer program and connected with volunteers Adriana de Urquiza and Werner Giuliano Diaz Yalta, who used their knowledge and experience to assist with these needs.
Adriana de Urquiza was the virtual volunteer with a lengthy background in agribusiness and has worked with farmers to facilitate market access, create efficient distribution models, and develop relationships with clients. She has trained sales teams, analyzed businesses’ credit, and has performed sector analysis on agribusiness. Werner Giuliano Diaz Yalta was the in-country volunteer and his profession has been in the business advising sector where he most recently worked with the commercialization of small enterprises’ products and services. He has also provided workshops and advice to businesses to grow their activities and is currently a professor.
Monte Azul’s project leader, Fidel Fernandez Cubas, spoke about the information learned from Adriana and Werner, saying,
“I consider two most important takeaways during this assignment. The CANVAS business model that was addressed in a practical way by Adriana de Urquiza. Also, the survey provided by Giuliano Diaz, this is an important tool that will allow us to understand and know better the member´s need and improve the relationship between the coop and the farmers. We are aware we have been prioritizing the commercial activities, but it is high time to focus on the social side of the cooperatives as well.”
Adriana and Giuliano’s work with Monte Azul will allow it to grow further as a business. By expanding and creating more partnerships and working on its business strategy, Monte Azul will continue to provide its services and help its 278 members maintain economic security.
Monte Azul, like many other businesses, has faced tough challenges from the COVID pandemic but has learned and grown from them. This past year, many farmers located further away from the co-op could not bring their crops for collection, selling them to brokers instead. As a result, these families had a smaller income than planned for the year. Learning from this hardship, Monte Azul has reinforced its communication with its members to ensure that the co-op will transport the crops in the future so everyone can make it to collection on time. Monte Azul has also faced instability with their incomes due to delays in receiving cacao and coffee products at the co-op and thus being unable to bring its products to buyers on time. With the help of their Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers, Monte Azul will learn and recover from this calamity while growing with their new business model.