The following was translated from the website of Peruvian radio station RPP, one of the most well-known media outlets in Peru. German Mejia has been nominated for the Premio Integracion, or Integration Award, which is a national award that identifies people whose actions are transforming Peru.

German Mejia is a Peruvian farmer. He is 43 years old. It was German’s vision to create social progress in the Cusco region of Peru. To do this, he formed the Regional Association of Agricultural Producers (ARPAC) to provide access to fair trade markets. The association began with 360 families in one province eight years ago. Today, it represents 5,000 farmers from 13 provinces.

Thanks to the initiative of German, the campesinos created the Huacaro market, where every Saturday more than 1,500 producers sell milk, vegetables, tubers, meats and other produce. Here, the role of women is fundamental: 80 percent of the producers are women and they are involved in the marketing of their products.

For two years, Heifer Peru has worked with ARPAC through the Allin Kausay project, which means “good life” in Quechua. Through this project, 600 families are increasing their income by raising guinea pigs and improving their gardens and homes.

One critical factor that has enabled these campesinos to improve their economic conditions is the formation of groups of smallholder farmers that come together instead of working alone. German Mejia promotes cooperation among peers and encourages people to help each other. They have regular trainings and discussion forums to share experiences and discuss topics focused on production issues and improvements, marketing channels, agroecological crops and environmental care.

Author

Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.