It’s been 10 days since my arrival to Peru. Work has begun on our first container of coffee, and we are moving ahead.
Times are tough in the central jungle. For everyone.
We’re facing unusual tropical storms that are jeopardizing this year’s crop. As if the roya wasn’t enough, I’ve been speaking to farmers that have lost as much as 70% of their first harvest. The combined threat has put many into desperate measures as we struggle to live, pay off loans and stay out of harm’s way. With the onset of the storms, we’re seeing more cases of bacterial infection and other sickness. For several days now, Jose, Bailey, and I have been stranded in La Merced, with country roads impassable due to weather conditions or mudslides.
But there’s hope. There’s always hope.
Jose and I managed to collect several sacks already. This coffee hails from several indigenous communities belonging to the Asháninka tribes of the Amazon. In their own struggle to grow out of object poverty through cultivating coffee, I’ve been impressed by their work ethic, their values, and their culture. We as Reach have decided to undergo a project to bring all 68 families-250 people- into a new world of clean water and sanitation.
Within a day of our decision, we’ve installed several basic carbon mineral filters. These filters will serve us as educational devices to begin now the vital process of training the community on the valuable difference that clean water brings, and yet also the added responsibility it demands. That same day, I was put into contact with a local architect with wide experience in water and sanitation development. We are devising a plan to implement larger bio-sand filtration tanks that will service every household faucet in the community and provide enough water for daily clean water use in consumption, cooking, washing, and bathing. Clean water is something that this community hasn’t seen for many years, but it doesn’t stop there.
It appears that this community represents the forefront of a movement among the many Asháninka tribes in the region to slowly become culturally appreciated and economically integrated into modern societies. If we execute this program well, the leadership of this tribe could translate into a chain reaction of socio-economic empowerment throughout the central jungle; something that this tribe recognizes and vows to achieve.
Time will tell us how this story unfolds. Unfortunately, the story of the Asháninka carries with it many twists and turns. Just two weeks ago, on the 26th of May, a nearby tribal chief was murdered, allegedly by several members of a neighboring logging company following a land dispute. This has triggered a split among the tribes with one side contemplating armed resistance. For the Asháninka , war cannot be the answer, but many here believe it is the only way to have their voice be heard, and their land won against illegal logging operations. Again and again, I’ve been hearing of the travesties following the years of terrorism with the Senderos Luminosos (The Shining Path). We’ve heard too many accounts of bloodshed, arsine, rape, displacement, and the kidnapping of children for conversion into child soldiers. Their stories make history real, their lives even more precious, and our mission that much more necessary.
The world cannot lose the Asháninka. As a people, they are among the most culturally diverse and undiscovered remaining on Earth today. Their rich culture and the economic opportunity they’re working towards can provide us all with treasures, like the specialty grade coffees that we are trading from them. And with the development in clean water, we hope that the Asháninka can enrich us with their coffee and culture for many years to come.
Today draws to an end, and finally it seems that the sun is coming back to us. Tomorrow at 5 am, we begin again. Weather permitting, we’ll make it to the farms tomorrow.
We move ahead.
Coffee for Clean Water.