Global Programs

Indigenous communities in Peru are leading local sustainable development efforts

Members of Peru’s Awajún indigenous community attend a sustainable agricultural workshop offered by NCBA CLUSA partner AGROTUR.

With the launch of their new coffee cooperative, Peru’s Awajún indigenous people are taking ownership of the region’s sustainable development journey, enhancing their quality of life and restoring the natural environment.

The formal registration in February of the Kajui Ikamia Cooperative, which means “mountain coffee” in the Awajún dialect, marked a significant milestone for the Sustainable Native Communities Initiative. A collaboration between NCBA CLUSA, the agricultural services company AGROTUR and the Regional Government of Cajamarca, the initiative was supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Cooperative Development Program (CDP) in Peru. As part of the initiative, AGROTUR manages the “Los Pinos” coffee farm where they demonstrate sustainable agricultural practices and support small coffee producers.

The core objective of this collaborative effort was to empower indigenous communities in Peru to lead local sustainable development efforts. Another pivotal focus was the revitalization of abandoned coffee areas through technical assistance and training in partnership with five Awajún native communities in the province of San Ignacio, Peru.

The Awajún people, Peru’s second-largest indigenous group, reside in dispersed settlements around five departments of Peru and predominantly engage in activities such as cultivating sweet cassava, hunting, fishing and growing coffee. Despite their integral role in coffee production, they face challenges in implementing effective agricultural practices and managing finances to enhance sustainability on their farms.

In response to these needs and building on the ancestral knowledge and culture of these indigenous communities, NCBA CLUSA and AGROTUR conducted a comprehensive training program comprising of 12 workshops tailored to the needs of Awajún families between September 2022 and June 2023. The program was part of NCBA CLUSA’s recently-ended Creating an Environment for Cooperative Expansion (CECE) project, funded by USAID CDP. By encouraging good agricultural practices, technology adoption, and the formalization of coffee cultivation, the program aims to empower the Awajún population toward self-sufficiency and resilience.

The training curriculum extended beyond traditional farming methods to encompass vital topics such as governance, organizational structures and cooperative principles, providing participants with essential management tools. One notable aspect of the program was its commitment to inclusion, including a dedicated workshop on financial education and the economic empowerment of women. Despite initial challenges, including language barriers and the need to tailor content to Awajún cultural norms, the training program successfully navigated these obstacles with the invaluable assistance of two indigenous young people who volunteered as translators, ensuring effective communication.

As a result of this training initiative and technical assistance, 80 families were trained in sustainable coffee management and implemented robust soil and water conservation practices alongside the adoption of efficient coffee harvesting and post-harvest management techniques. They also developed a prototype for an artisanal method of processing coffee called “buits cafetero,” which is based on Awajún ancestral knowledge and traditions. Given that the training program covered organizational aspects including the cooperative model, four committees representing these five communities were established and tasked with laying the groundwork for the formation of one cooperative. The cooperative committees also acquired 32 kg of high-quality coffee seeds, along with vegetable seeds to improve their farms and enrich biodiversity.

The registration of the Kajui Ikamia Cooperative—comprised of 48 partners (12 women and 36 men) from four Awajún native communities of San Ignacio, Cajamarca, Peru—is a milestone for this initiative that will contribute to its sustained impact. The demographic diversity of the cooperative underscores its inclusive spirit; its 240 members range from young people to seasoned elders and women, all united in their commitment to sustainable agriculture and community prosperity. Currently, the cooperative has 50 hectares of coffee plantations. This year, the co-op expects to harvest 2,500 kg of coffee, generating 11,250 soles (~USD$3,000) in income. In 2025, it projects a harvest of 60,000 kg with income of 270,000 soles (~USD$73,000).

The initiative to form the Kajui Ikamial agricultural cooperative is the result of technical assistance and training on the advantages of the cooperative business model and incentives outlined in the regulatory framework of Peru’s Law 31335, which supports agricultural producers coming together to form cooperatives. AGROTUR remains instrumental in providing technical support, facilitating access to financing, and fostering international cooperation. As Kajui Ikamial embarks on its journey as a legal entity, NCBA CLUSA is offering advisory services aimed at crafting a robust work plan. This plan includes adopting management tools, establishing an accounting and financial framework, and launching strategic market engagement.

Tomas Bazán Jempekit, president of the co-op’s board of directors, echoed the sentiment that by adopting sustainable agricultural practices and promoting economic inclusion—especially among women—this initiative has not only enhanced livelihoods, but also set the groundwork for enduring and holistic development. Thanks to the collaboration with AGROTUR, which generously shared their expertise and provided a demonstration plot at their Los Pinos farm, knowledge transfer has been facilitated through a diverse range of workshops covering critical agricultural techniques ranging from germination to post-harvest management.

Under NCBA CLUSA’s current Cooperative Ecosystem and Social Inclusion (CESI) CDP project—being implemented in Peru through 2028—we are building on this success and lessons learned. Engaging the entire community in understanding and mitigating the impacts of climate change—including the promotion of women-centered solutions—will be a central part of the project’s future actions to ensure effective, equitable and sustainable solutions.

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