The pergamino calibration turned out not to be as easy as I thought. I always had to explain my project to the farmers in order to get some beans from them, which was really time consuming. Then some those beans turned out to be too wet and thus useless. There was also a lot of time that I couldn’t measure because the beans were too hot (because they came out of the sun or out of the pilador). So I didn’t get too much result from that, but I already have enough to see that the bigger humidity sensor won’t improve accuracy; at least not without some more modifications. The problem is that when you separate the metal plates further from each other, the capacity goes down, so it takes less time to charge and discharge it, which converts into low cycle times on the PIC. This means that for the same amount of deviation in humidity, you’ll get less deviation in cycles, which is bad. A simple solution for this is too measure more charge/discharge cycles, but this is yet to be implemented.

Victor Ronald also called me to move our appointment to go to Chirinos to Friday 12/08, 6AM (early birds here in Peru, right?), which gave me time to skype with the team. A huge problem we encountered was that Sol y Café’s prices didn’t change enough with changing humidity. The idea is that for coffee with a humidity higher than 12%, Sol y Café only pays a part of the price. They call this ‘descuenta’, and it’s often expressed in kilogrammes per quintal, the weight the coffee cooperative doesn’t pay for. If you dry your coffee, there’s water that’s evaporating and thus weight that’s lost. This decrease in weight is called ‘merma’, and we think they don’t compensate enough for this. This means that it would be better for a farmer to sell his coffee at 14% instead of the ‘ideal’ 12%. He’ll lose some money on the price (descuenta), but he’ll gain more on the weight. The whole motive behind our project was getting farmers to earn more money, bringing in coffee at 12%. This motive is now pretty much gone, so we changed plans for my last week. From then on, my task was to figure out why we should continue our project and where exactly lies the value in it. We decided not to cancel my appointment to go to Chirinos, because there are some other coffee federations that I could learn from. And oh boy, have I learnt. I wrote a 10-page report for Humasol, containing the information I learned in the last five days of my project. Above all this, I also got very good measurements on greater heights in Chirinos (1820m), with temperatures as low as 21°C. Long live Chirinos, the giant refrigerator. When I got back in Jaén, I did measurements with the same samples, made some videos for the next generation of project students and took some interviews with farmers to learn more about how they work and what’s our project worth to them. Wednesday was packing my bag and saying goodbye to everyone and now I’m on an 18-hour bus trip to Lima, writing this blog and the report for Humasol.

We also went to Cajamarca and Trujillo, as I really didn’t want to leave northern Peru without having seen Cajamarca, capital of the province I’ve been living in for the past 2 months. Cajamarca probably has the nicest plaza de armas I’ve seen so far, with a beautiful cathedral lying right next to it. There are also some churches we visited, and we went to Cumbemayo and Otuzco. Otuzco was a tourist trap, there’s really nothing much to see, just a bunch of rocks with holes in them, pretty boring. Cumbemayo on the other hand had beautiful landscapes and some traces of older cultures, like a sacrificing altar and a channel for water they used for religious practices. In Trujillo, we went to Chan Chan and to Huanchaco, were we tried wave surfing.

All in all, I’ve overcome a lot of setbacks in this project and I think I have got some great ideas to improve our tiny white box. But that’s for when I’m back in Belgium. For now, I’ve got enough of coffee humidity for a little while and I’m going to discover the southern part of Peru.

Project ex, travel in.


And finally, here are some of the things I learned in Peru:

In Peru, I learned…

  • How to speak Spanish, a lot better
  • Or at least the Jaén dialect (claro pé ;))
  • That travelling indeed can be exhausting, especially on semicama busses
  • That Belgium only has a tiny fraction of all available fruits
  • That Peru is a pretty developed country after all (most have flowing water, electricity and mobile phones)
  • That businesses can grow really fast (sol y café, industrias Yapango, finca churupampa, all have pretty big impact and don’t exist for too long)
  • That you can survive without eating vegetables for two months
  • That you can open a door using a dust pan
  • About mototaxis, converted motorbikes for cheap city transportation
  • That Peru has pretty bad education and very corrupt presidents
  • About Peruvian food and drinking habits
  • About coffee. I learned a lot about coffee.
  • That conducting an experiment might get boring after a hundred times, but the excel sheet graph keeps looking better and better
  • That getting massages while waiting in the hair saloon is a good idea (heck, getting massages anywhere is a good idea)
  • That Peruvian hairdressers got skills (6 soles = less than 2 euros and you even get your beard cut)
  • How to slackline, just a liiiitle bit
  • About café helado, delightful ice coffee
  • About chifas, Chinese restaurants in Peru
  • About the environment and how most Peruvians don’t care about it
  • How important it is to talk to people
  • That I am tall, just about a thousand times
  • That Gerben is a good cook
  • That gringos are sometimes better tourist attractions for Peruvians than the place itself (oh, we should’ve asked money for all those pictures)
  • Surfing, also just a tiny little bit
  • That cancelado doesn’t mean that the bill is canceled, rather that it’s paid. They weren’t trying to dodge taxes after all :p

Pictures yet to come (when I find decent internet)