Intensificación ecológica y socioeconómica de la pequeña agricultura andina (AGROECO) and Asociación Nacional de Productores Ecológicos del Perú (ANPE-PERU) recently have launched an initiative to help women organic smallholder farmers in Peru establish long-term relationships with gourmet restaurants in the country.

The AGROECO project—hosted by Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina (UNALM)—will help 40 women smallholder organic produce farmers meet the standards necessary to supply five premier gourmet restaurants in Cuzco, Peru.

The initiative aims to promote organic vegetable production, to supply hotels and restaurants with a source of nutritious organic produce, to improve household nutrition, and to generate supplemental income for the participating women smallholder farmers.

According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), while more than 75 percent of the Peruvian population lives in or around urban areas, poverty and food insecurity are heavily concentrated in rural areas, where many farmers farm at subsistence levels. Moreover, IFAD reports that rural poverty has a disproportionate impact on women in Peru, who make up a significant portion of the agricultural workforce and contribute to as much as 80 percent of household labor.

Although organic farming in Peru has increased in recent years, challenges—including water scarcity, poor access to credit, and insufficient agricultural policy and infrastructure to support the production and sale of organic products—prevent farmers from reaping the full benefits of organic farming.

Throughout the last decade, ANPE-PERU has developed an organic certification process— the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS)—for smallholder farmers as an alternative to expensive certification processes. However, while farmers participating in the PGS were able to increase their organic farms' productivity, many of them still sold much of their organic produce at the markets for conventional prices.

As a result, the Frutos de la Tierra brand—which was established initially to promote ANPE-PERU's organic fairs—was relaunched as a marketing device to ensure that organic farmers can use the label to sell their products at competitive prices. ANPE-PERU and AGROECO hope that the brand's impact on the earnings of smallholder farmers will reduce poverty and support family agriculture in Peru.

The Frutos de la Tierra brand operates primarily in Lima and parts of the Peruvian Andes (Cajamarca and Cuzco), and products sold using the brand are sourced and packaged directly from family farms for sale to consumers.

"To market its products under the brand, ANPE-PERU partners meet requirements to ensure its quality. For example, their crop fields are agro, not using chemical fertilizers or artificial fertilizers, and meet an ecological circuit production," said Moises Quispe, executive director of ANPE-PERU.

The brand has already established several "eco-shops" in Cajamarca and Cuzco through which farmers sell their products—with more than 200 varieties of organic, competitively-priced products—and will soon be opening its first eco-shop in Lima.

Top restaurants in Peru recognize the appeal that using products with the brand—which guarantees quality, locally-sourced, chemical-free produce—has to their patrons.