From Guinea Pigs to Avocados - Building Small Businesses in Peru


By: Jeff Hoover, Field Coordinator, CARE USA

During my recent travels to Peru to visit CARE”s programs, our group learned of the JUNTOs program. JUNTOs is a government partnership that offered wide ranging business and development assistance to the poor.The program paid poor women and families 100 sols (approx $40) per month to live a healthy, education-oriented life. Families receiving the stipend were required to send their children to school and ensure that they received proper vaccinations. Pregnant women were also required to receive regular checkups and vaccinations. The support typically isn”t paid longer than four years and is meant to help build a nest egg the families can use to start a business. Another way JUNTOs worked in the communities was to facilitate technical or logistical assistance for small businesses.

During this visit we met Elsa, a woman who had spent all but the last year of her life raising cuy (guinea pigs) in quantities large enough only to feed herself and her family. After receiving veterinary and financial training from CARE and JUNTOs, Elsa was able to open a small business selling cuy and chickens by using the 100 sol per month stipend she had earned. Elsa not only was trained to take care of her livestock, but also how to manage her money. She has been integrated into the formal banking system rather than hiding money around her property. She detailed how she had been afraid to bank, and was convinced banking would somehow result in losing her money. She now helps other women integrate themselves into the Peruvian financial system and has ambitions on forming a local trade association with her neighbors and expanding their livestock business.

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Elsa with her cuy (guinea pigs)

Our subsequent stops led to stories very similar to Elsa”s. We talked to women and families who were barely able to feed themselves before CARE. After having been taught how to properly manage their money and care for their livestock they are now able to invest and sustain their businesses.

This was best illustrated at our last stop for the day at a local avocado farm. Prior to 2001 in Peru, avocados were exclusively a wild plant. Our host on this stop, Hector, began his avocado farm in 2002 after he was approached by CARE and JUNTOs to learn how to farm on a demonstration plot. After learning how to farm Hector relied on the outside expertise of CARE and JUNTOs to help him determine what to sellbased onmarket demands. CARE and JUNTOs also helped Hector secure loans from Edyficar. Edyficar is a bank that specializes in microfinance loans that was originally founded in part by CARE.

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Hector on his avocado farm

Hector was very grateful and talked at length about the technical assistance he received from CARE which, in addition to the seed money, was the key to his success. Prior to the infrastructure improvements made possible through the additional training and loan, Hector only had access to water once every 90 days. Now he is able to secure water every 25 days, which is adequate. The structural improvements and technical training also allowed Hector to install an automated irrigation system for his farm, which greatly improved his efficiency and increased his output dramatically.

Hector pridefully told us his avocados were sought out by Peruvian companies due to their high quality, and this was bolstered by CARE”s financial training and help building a trade association. Currently Hector sells his avocados throughout Peru, but he aims to expand to the U.S. and Europe. The training he”s received and his established success will help him make contacts with export companies to aid his growth into new markets.

Congress iscurrently considering legislationthat could help people like Elsa and Hector start small businesses and generate income for their families. Ask your legislator to support the Microenterprise Empowerment and Job Creation Act (H.R. 2524) and the Microfinance and Microenterprise Enhancement Act (S.2027) by sending them a letter now.