Gumercinda’s Story: Gender Justice & cooperation in Pangoa, Peru
Posted by James Astuhuaman on 10 July 2017
The journey of gender justice is better when the family walks the path together. For Gumercinda Perez, a 33 year old Peruvian coffee farmer at Twin's partner CAC Pangoa cooperative, this is a lesson that she has learned and it describes the route that she has taken towards her own empowerment. Crossing streams and forests, Gumercinda and her husband Orlando Suarez (38) guided me to their beautiful house at 1,300 meters above sea level, in Saniveni community, Pangoa. Together they own 3.5 hectares of land, dedicated to producing organic coffee and 9 hectares covered in woodland with a rich diversity of native species, orange trees, palms and some cacao. Over the years, they have worked hard to improve their farm and their lives.
"Pangoa was different 20 years ago, my family and I had to move from my old town because of the conflict caused by the guerrillas and narcotraffickers. We suffered too much so we left our town to seek better opportunities. After a few years, I met my husband and we moved to Saniveni to grow coffee and to start a new life together. Unfortunately, in 2012 our coffee was affected by yellow rust like most of the coffee crops in the country in this period and we lost almost all the plantation. Also, because we had invested money in our farm, we got into debt, so we came back to the city to find other jobs. We were also members of a small coffee cooperative which deteriorated due to bad administration and corruption. They couldn’t help us so we were alone. But I love coffee, so me and my husband went back to the farm to keep working. One day, my neighbour recommended to be part of CAC Pangoa Cooperative and I became a member. The general manager listened to our story and helped us pay our debts gradually. So, I became part of the Women’s Committee (CODEMU) and since then I have participated in all training supported by Twin’s project. Thanks to the Cooperative and this project my farm has become a demonstration farm and this year I am expecting to harvest about 40 'quintales' (bags of 46 kg) of coffee to be sold as Women’s Coffee".
Right now, Gumercinda is one of the most active members of Pangoa’s women’s committee and she has acquired new skills in coffee production, cupping and local business marketing. On her farm, she had visits from neighbours, through the farmer field school, to show them how to make organic fertilizer using local inputs and other good practices for production. She makes liquid bio-fertilizers to experiment with on her own farm and to sell to others. Gumercinda was also trained in GALS methodology (Gender Action learning system) to bring equity to the family and encourage her husband to make decisions together for the good of the family and the farm. In their house, she shows us very proudly the Gender balance tree and the Family chart:
"My husband and I believe that if we want to improve our lives we have to work together and listen to each other. That’s what I have learned on the Gender Workshops and we want to do it at home. Now we have our own chart where all the family participates. My husband and I take decisions on the farm. Luis Miguel, my 13 year old son is the Assistant Manager so he keeps track of all the expenses and incomes at home; Shunny, my 11 year old daughter helps us to record the coffee harvested and my 8 year old son, David reminds us of our tasks and responsibilities on the farm. So, we all work together because I want a better future for my kids through gender justice and I hope we can reach this one day".
Gumercinda Perez is one of the beneficiaries of the project ‘Strengthening of the coffee value chain in Peru’, a Twin project in partnership with Matthew Algie, Taylors of Harrogate and M&S from UK. Twin Associate, James Astuhuaman, recently visited Gumercinda Perez’s farm to learn about her experience as part of the project and the impact it has had on her farm.