Solidarity in the times of COVID-19


In Amazonas, Peru, CECAFE cooperative resorts to pre-Hispanic Minka to harvest and collect coffee. Minka is a tradition of reciprocal or communal collaborative work.
CECAFE associates 834 coffee producers from Lonya Grande, Amazonas. Usually between April and May, dayworkers from surrounding counties migrate to respond to the high demand of labour. 
Thanks to mutual help among cooperative partners and family members, farmers were able to collect 80% of their coffee on time.

The strict lockdown imposed by the Peruvian government on March 16, 2020, to avoid a Covid-19 outbreak, prevented agricultural dayworkers to migrate to Lonya Grande and work from April till August, as is customary, on coffee harvest and collection.

There is not enough workforce in the area to harvest and collect all coffee plots of CECAFE’s 834 producers. For this reason, each year additional agricultural labour is needed in Lonya Grande. CECAFE is among the top 10 coffee producers and sellers in Peru, yielding around 3000 tons of coffee per year to a value of USD 8 million approximately.

This year, harvest season arrive and coffee producers were faced with the possibility of losing their crops as dayworkers couldn’t migrate from sourounding areas. To harvest and collect their coffee on time, CECAFE partners recourse to Minka, a pre-Columbian collaborative and reciprocal labour tradition. Family members from the cooperative got together to work one day at a time on each farm, thus every day they would move from one plot to the other, so that all cooperative members land would be harvested. However, despite their effort, solidarity and reciprocity, CECAFE estimated a 20% loss in their yield.

Cooperative values and principles as solidarity, cooperation and compromise are essential to survive during crises. This story also highlights the importance of maintaining alive ancestral practices, which in this case helped farmers overcome Covid-19 related challenges and save up to 80% of their product.

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