A Piping Hot Cup of Sustainability

And the award for Best Quality Coffee goes to…Ms Vicentina Phocco Palero from the Puno region of Peru.

And that’s how it went at the 2018 Specialty Coffee Expo, held in Seattle earlier this year. Sold under the name brand, Quechua, Ms. Phocco’s coffee brought top honors to Peru for the second year in a row. The 2017 winner, Mr. Raul Mamani with his coffee “Tunki,” is also from the Puno region.

It’s unclear if either of the winners thanked the Wildlife Conservation Society in their acceptance speeches, but they certainly could have.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is a US nonprofit, tax-exempt, private organization established in 1895 that saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.

WCS works in nearly 60 countries around the world, including Peru, where the organization has been working since 1986. One of the two major WCS projects in Peru is taking place in the southern end of the country, in the Madidi Tambopata area, one of the country’s finest coffee growing areas.

The area’s coffee farmers, however, have been facing challenges in recent years, such as overcoming the yellow rust plague that affected coffee production, insufficient and often inadequate expert technical assistance, the difficulties in accessing financial investments and obtaining skilled labor. These challenges are causing farmers to abandon coffee production and look for sources of income in less sustainable practices that have negative impacts on forests and biodiversity.

This is why WCS has been working with the coffee farmers to help them continue to produce sustainable, high-quality coffees by providing access to special markets and fair trade programs. This way their families have a way of improving their quality of life, while stopping deforestation in the Amazon and the reducing the threats to the nearby Bahuaja Sonene National Park.

In fact, in September of this year, WCS arranged for a handful of chefs, restaurant owners, baristas and other high-profile food service professionals to visit Madidi Tambopata area, and see first-hand the quality of product—both coffee and potato—being produced there.

The visits were intended not only to raise awareness of the region and its crops, but also to make purchase agreements for micro-lots of coffee and potato, thus opening up a whole new channel of revenue for the local farmers.

Thanks, in part, to WCS, the coffees of the Puno region are becoming known around the world for their award-winning quality, while their sustainable agriculture practices serve as an example and inspirations for farmers everywhere.