‘I am a child of the chakra. Even as a little boy, I was intrigued by the different plants in my family’s forest garden. I learned how to look after them and began to understand that all those different plants growing in our region protect each other. It was my father who told me about this, and he also taught me to respect the rainforest all around us. These are traditions handed down to us by our ancestors, which I’m now passing on to my own children.
Like me, they are coffee growers. In 2007, we founded the Waylla Kuri cooperative to market coffee and other products from the chakra. Back then, we had only just started growing coffee. Although we had little experience, it didn’t take us long to produce good-quality coffee. GIZ helped us sell our coffee by putting us in touch with Quijote Kaffee. This means that we now get a good price for our coffee and have a secure sales market. This year we expect to produce 350 quintals (equivalent to about 16,000 kilograms) of robusta coffee, all thanks to the work of the 330 members of our cooperative. I myself produced between four and five quintals of coffee (over 200 kilograms) last year. The number of members is growing, and more and more of them are women – about 40 per cent now. The area where we grow our crops is increasing, too, although we only use land that was already being used for agriculture. The Quechua tradition forbids clearing the rainforest. Collectively, we have titles to more than 41,000 hectares of land, around half of which is primary forest that we don’t touch. People are allowed to grow crops on the remaining area – but must use the ‘sistema chakra’. These forest gardens are cultivated according to the Quechua traditions, entirely organically. We don’t even use copper, which is allowed as a pesticide in organic farming in Europe.’ —