Welcome to Cabana
I am back in Cabana to spend a week meeting members of the cooperative in the fields. It is autumn here in Peru, so the potatoes and quinoa are being harvested. The crops this year have not been great (due to late hailstorms) with the average yield on a hectare of quinoa at about 800kg compared to a good year when it can be as high as 1,800kg. To put that in context most farmers in Europe would be expecting cereal yields of about 7000kg a hectare, so the farmers of Coopain still have a lot to learn to get better volumes out of the same acreage. That is why they have experimental fields to try and optimise quinoa strains depending on soil type and inclination. They are also working to find the best formulas for their organic fertilizer Biol (they have just discovered that using fresh sheep dung in the mix is a better fertilizer than dry alpaca poo). There is also an agronomist, trying to encourage farmers to plant alfalfa crops during the fallow period. This not only puts nitrogen back into the soil but also can be used as fodder for the livestock. They are also increasing the irrigation canal network, so that natural rainfall and melting snow can be better utilised . It is important to meet the individual farmers so as to discuss their issues with them, and to ensure that the Fairtrade premiums being paid are being invested as they wish. They are delighted to be named on the packs and that people the other side of the world might be interested and supportive of all the back breaking work they do every day.