Special Reserve, Guinea Pigs and Coffee Farmers

By Amanda Cooper

This post was written by Mary Beth Jenssen. Mary Beth works on our Supply-Chain Outreach Team.

Do you ever wonder what life is like for the farmer who works to produce the coffee you enjoy each morning? In our Supply Chain Outreach team, we focus on just that: supporting farmers and their families to meet their fundamental human needs.

One year ago marked the start of a GMCR-supported project with CAC La Prosperidad coffee cooperative in northern Peru (which is currently our Special Reserve Coffee). The project focused on raising guinea pigs – yes those cute, furry rodents that we all know and love – for consumption to improve the diets and income of the cooperative members. The project, managed by the cooperative’s Women’s Committee, benefits many of the cooperatives 391 members. Year one of these efforts recently concluded and the Committee reported on how this project has changed food security in their community.

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A Snapshot of Growth:

Day One: 48 guinea pigs (40 female, 8 male)
Day 60: 70 guinea pigs (60 female, 10 male)
Day 365: 350 guinea pigs cared for by the cooperative and 10 individual coffee-farming families
Goal: 800 guinea pigs

As the number of guinea pigs (or Cuy as it is called in Peru) continues to grow, members are able to consume some of this meat every 15 days. Adding this small amount of guinea pig meat to their meals enables many to achieve and maintain a healthier, more balanced diet that counters nutritional deficiencies and diseases that result from poor nutrition.

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Another benefit from these guinea pigs? It may be hard to believe, but the cooperative collects 33 pounds, 15 kilos, of guinea pig manure each day which is incorporated into their fertilizer production. Not only are the members able to use this fertilizer on their own land, but the cooperative is also able to sell the product to other community members and nearby organizations. The profit from this activity could sustain the guinea pig project into the future and may even to support other new activities.

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In case you are concerned about the well-being of the guinea pig, I should mention that the members work to provide the upmost care by creating housing units using materials best suited for the safety and comfort of the guinea pigs. Additionally, each guinea pig unit has a caretaker charged with ensuring they are well-fed, hydrated, healthy and safe, which may even include visits to a veterinarian. As a result of this excellent care, members will be able to achieve improved diets and profitability fromthis project into the future.

Now, the next time you sit down to sip your Special Reserve La Prosperidad Peru you may end up thinking about the food best suited to pair with it. Perhaps it won’t be your morning bagel, but something a bit more unusual. Grilled guinea pig perhaps? I hear it tastes great when sprinkled with a bit of cumin.

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