Staff Profile: Luis Enrique Cristóbal
Luis joined Fairtrasa Peru in 2010. In his role, he manages all of the company’s logistics from farm to port, and also teaches logistics to small-scale farmer organizations, as part of Fairtrasa’s farmer development program. Here, in Fairtrasa Peru’s office in the city of Trujillo, Luis talks about the significance of his work for himself and for the small-scale farmers he and his team support.
Why did you want to be Manager of Logistics for Fairtrasa Peru?
You choose a professional career because it’s what you want to do and be. In my case, it wasn’t just a question of doing business or having a good salary. I wanted to do something that I loved and that would also give back to my country. I needed to find the balance between doing what I enjoy, which is exportation and logistics, and helping others. And I saw that working in an organization of small-scale producers, helping them export, gave me both things. For me, it’s the ideal equilibrium.
Where does your desire to benefit others come from?
There are a lot of causes, starting with what we see in the society around us. Sometimes, you’re walking down the street and you see a person asking for some money, and you might be able to help that person today; but the next day, maybe you won’t be able to. I was looking for something more. I wanted a job that could help people day after day. And I believe that, through exporting their products, small-scale producers can achieve much better living conditions and better educate their children. That’s how we can create sustainable change.
Have you seen an impact on the small-scale producers you work with?
Yes, quite a bit. A good example is a group of producers who grow bananas in a high, remote area in the state of Piura. Normally, bananas are produced in the lower region adjacent to it, because it’s closer and more accessible. This group grew bananas before, but nobody, no company, wanted to go there to harvest them, because it was so far away. These producers are small-scale but they have a lot of spirit, and they also have excellent land. They just needed a push. Fairtrasa arrived there when no other companies would go there, and we provided that push. Now the association of farmers — which, initially, sold about 200 boxes per week to local markets — sells 5 or 6 thousand boxes of bananas per week to international markets. For me, it’s a clear example of Fairtrasa’s impact on the most marginalized farmers, but it’s only one example among many.
Is teaching logistics part of Fairtrasa Peru’s farmer development program?
Yes, definitely. That organization in Piura, like many whom we’ve worked with, didn’t export at first; they sold their product to Fairtrasa and we exported it. But the time came when they wanted to export their bananas independently, and Fairtrasa taught them how. I, for example, traveled constantly to see them. I traveled on weekends, teaching them, preparing them in the operational aspect of exporting. Later, when they started exporting, I monitored them. So, yes, teaching logistics is very important and we do it constantly with many farmer organizations.
In your opinion, what makes Fairtrasa different from other companies?
First, it’s the team. The team knows that our work has an impact on others. We know that our effort doesn’t just go into earning better salaries. It goes into benefitting a producer and his or her family. That’s first and foremost, that philosophy. Here at Fairtrasa, each member of the team knows that we’re impacting other people positively; and, on the other hand, if we commit an error, we know it will have an impact as well. Our way of thinking is, “Look, let’s do it well—not just because it’s good for us, but because it’s good for the world.” You don’t often see that mentality in other companies.
Why do you like most about your job?
The pressure! Because it’s a good kind of pressure. There’s a visionary aspect of Fairtrasa Peru, with a constant pressure to move forward with new and difficult projects. But it’s a good kind of pressure because we love what we’re doing. I never get bored because I’m always learning about new things — new fruits to produce and export, new methods, new conditions — and, at the same time, we’re creating more and more impact.
Are you optimistic about your future?
If I wasn’t happy and optimistic, I wouldn’t be here. I believe you have one opportunity in this life to do what you want to do, and if this isn’t what I want to do, then I’m wasting my time. But I know it’s not a waste. Fairtrasa is a fantastic company with an important mission. We — not just I, but the whole team — we’re dedicating our time to Fairtrasa because we know we’re generating positive impact, and we also know that Fairtrasa is helping us with our own professional growth. Because that’s the vision of Fairtrasa: that we all grow—individually and together.