Just as in Santiago, Chile we had a mix of interesting site visits in Lima with business leaders, academics, government officials and subject matter experts.
We had meetings with the American Chamber of Commerce, ESAN University, BTG Pactual (Investment Bank), Agroideas (Peruvian government entity responsible for assisting small farming coops), Technoserve (an NGO assisting small farmers become more effective at accessing the market) and VisaNet. Greg pulled in some extra effort and scheduled two additional meetings with Inter-American Development Bank and a food exporter and restaurant owner on the following Friday morning. We did still however manage to join our class for lunch and the awesome textile mill tour that Jason had helped schedule.
The meeting set up at ESAN University was a fascinating panel discussion with eminent agribusiness academics, entrepreneurs and consultants. We learned about the similar history Peruvian farmers experienced with their Chilean counterparts as it pertains to the agrarian reforms in the 1960s, and the government partitioning of land into small subsistence-based “mini-farms.” Peruvian farmers however faced more acute geographic isolation due to the poor road infrastructure in their areas, and inadequate access to government funded irrigation systems. As a result many of these farmers have resorted to illegal Coca farming in order to make ends meet.
One way for small farmers to enhance their wellbeing is to band together their lands and aggregate their production in the form of co-ops. Agroideas is a government entity that actively encourages this by offering government funding for equipment, technical know-how and other assistance. The catch however is that these co-ops have to actually produce business plans that prove their viability, sustainability and profitability. NGOs like Technoserve provide consultation services and advice to these co-op members on their business plan preparation and presentation. It seems that Peruvian co-ops have something in common with Executive MBA students who are about to start work on their capstone projects!