An interview with Yesy Lalupu – Part II

In the first part of our interview, we talked with Yesy Lalupu, the director of Fairtrasa Peru, about her personal background and connection to smallholder agriculture, how she saw farming change in recent decades, and how she believes we can effectively support small-scale family farmers today.

In this second part, we are going to discuss the challenges that smallholders in Peru are facing today and the role that we can play in solving them, as well as the most important learnings, the most rewarding aspects and the most heartwarming story of the last three years which Yesy has spent at the helm of our local office.

  • What do you think is the greatest challenge in working with farmers?

Building trust. Farmers have so often been deceived with unkept promises from bad market actors or from the government itself, that they have become individualistic. In the short term, this has worked out for some of them. But times are changing, competition is increasing and the market is becoming more demanding with every passing day. This is why it’s vital for us to make long-term alliances and homogenize our offer. For that, it’s essential to first develop trust.

  • And what are the most important challlenges that Peruvian farmers are facing today?

There are more than two million farmers in Peru, and there is a lot of diversity according to regions, climates, cultures — even valleys. This is a strength, but also a challenge when it comes to defining strategies, for example, for competitiveness. Africa has an increasingly interesting offer every year. We have to find ways to improve efficiency and quality across different climatic regions and soil types. This is not just the farmers’ job — whether the government can provide good technical assistance services and improve basic infrastructure such a roads and ports makes a big difference in how well we can compete.

Then there is the issue of sustainability. Caring for our resources — our water, soil, forests and biodiversity. It’s still not addressed in the public discourse with the importance that it should have. People don’t yet give enough thought to it, and we don’t have the right public policies that would support sustainability.

What we would need to pay the most attention to is of course climate change. Without a doubt it’s the phenomenon that is going to have the most negative impact on agriculture. We see more intense seasons. The colds are colder and the heat is hotter than before, with longer droughts and more flooding. Several studies have warned us how climate change is going to affect small-scale agriculture the most, and it’s happening. We have to find ways to both mitigate it and adapt to it.

Our politics of course doesn’t help. We are experiencing a permanent political crisis, with one corruption scandal on top of the other, fragmenting the country into more and more bitter factions. This is the other major challenge. We have to become better citizens, unite more as a country — and then force politics to address the huge tasks ahead of us.

  • How can Fairtrasa play a role in addressing these challenges?

We are in a good position to have an impact. We are leaders in our niche, with a recognized brand and a good reputation. This is a strength. We can make proposals at different levels, from farmers to authorities. We can educate both small-scale growers and large institutions, and help to keep these issues on the table.

We are also slowly shifting the ground by simply doing our day-to-day work, helping more smallholders adopt organic methods and gain economic security. You know I do believe that large-scale change is created with small actions that add up.

  • What were your most important learnings during your time as director of Fairtrasa Peru?

We are a multicultural team. I have Spanish and Dutch colleagues, as well as people from other Latin American countries. Our viewpoints are evidently different, and it is very enriching to get to know their vision of the business and their expectations.

Joining this team, and starting a new stage at the Peru headquarters, ensuring high quality and expanding the social aspect of our work — all of this has involved a lot of learning for me, and I feel like it’s been very rewarding.

  • What are the principles, values that you think people should adhere to if they wanted to do a good job in this field? What guides your work?

Transparency and honesty with the producer is the most important thing. Always fulfill what you promised.

  • What are the most rewarding aspects of your job and why?

The human connections. We are there with farmers throughout the entire process of caring for their fields, so to some degree, we are a part of their lives. We see their family concerns, and we are there when they celebrate. With many of them, we’ve made friends for life.

  • Could you share some stories that have made you really happy?

There are many beautiful stories, but something that struck me was during this last, 2022 avocado campaign. As you know, prices collapsed, many producers had no one to sell to, and they were losing their fruit on the field. The farmers that we are working with were worried about their neighbors, and they asked us if we could also buy their crops. The individualism that I mentioned earlier was gone, and solidarity opened. Several of the neighbors have been working with us for rest of this year.

  • What is your favorite fruit?

The mango, without a doubt. It reminds me of the sweet memories of my childhood, and the love my dad.

An interview with Yesy Lalupu – Part II

(Copyright © Fairtrasa)

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