Andean Heritage Revalued: Empowering Women with Access to Textile Markets

Andean Heritage Revalued: Empowering Women with Access to Textile Markets

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

With limited access to markets and unable to speak Spanish, Quechua communities in the highlands of Peru are hindered from generating a reliable income and pulling themselves out of poverty. Awamaki promotes sustainable community development by creating economic opportunities for Quechua women in the Patacancha Valley. We run health and education programs that complement our job creation, and preserve and foster Quechua culture in our work.
We currently work in the highland communities of Patacancha and Kelkanka as well as in Ollantaytambo on the valley floor.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Awamaki works with groups of women in remote Quechua communities in the Patacancha Valley, high in the Peruvian Andes. The valley is home to a number of small Quechua villages, ranging in size from several to 500 families. For centuries these villages have lived in isolation from the outside world. In the last 10 to 15 years, however, the modern economy has begun to penetrate these communities with the arrival of roads, electricity and schools. Formerly subsistence farmers and weavers, Quechua families are now becoming more integrated into, and dependent upon, the monetary economy. Men often leave the community for long periods to work as porters with trekking agencies, leaving women to care for land, children and animals. Poverty is grave in the communities, and women need income for modern expenses such as health expenses, school fees and food. With limited access to markets and unable to read, write or speak Spanish, these women are easily exploited by traders who buy their weavings for much less than they are worth and resell them in the tourist market. At the same time, as weaving loses the economic value it held in the pre-modern economy, women are leaving this ancient tradition behind. Development efforts of varying success have attempted to support women in these communities through the purchase of their textiles, but the groups undertaking these efforts lacked an interest in fair trade, a sense of steady market access, and a desire to work in a way compatible with their agricultural lifestyles and therefore could not provide a regular, sustainable income to the women. These projects always fail after a time because in addition to not generating income for the women, they cannot sustain themselves, and the women lose trust in their operation and decide not to work with them. Because of Awamaki's success in Patcancha and Kelkanka over the last 2.5 years, communities from all over the vally are approaching us with a desire to work with us. Awamaki is working to expand its markets so that it can successfully support additional communities.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We recognize the complexity of bringing economic opportunities to villages as isolated as those in the Sacred Valley. We take pride in our innovations in respecting the traditional agricultural lifestyles of our women while enabling them to fairly participate in the modern economy, as well as in our innovative efforts in marketing their textiles, providing a robust and sustainable income for women throughout the valley. Past and present projects in the region tend to neglect at least one of these and even go so far as to take advantage of the women. Awamaki: -is innovative in that we pay our weavers directly, using fair trade prices that reflect the value of the work of weaving. Most other projects work on consignment, and women can wait months before receiving any income -meets with its women regularly, working around their agricultural schedule -is a dynamic team that combines knowledge of international markets with local knowledge of indigenous communities -is constantly diversifying our women's access to market to ensure a steady income that is resistant to changes in the local tourist market -runs workshops to expand the quality and range of the products our women can produce and to recuperate traditional knowledge -is focused on cultural heritage: we seek to conserve our women's traditional way of life while extending the economic benefits of tourism to them through our sustainable tourism program All our artisans maintain a fund to use as they collectively decide, granting them more financial independence. Our projects are financially self-sustaining.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Tapping the Quechua weaving tradition for its international marketability, the Awamaki Weaving Project empowers impoverished indigenous women to participate in a modernizing economy in a way that allows them to maintain their culture. We purchase weavings directly from the women at fair trade prices and sell them in our store in Ollantaytambo, a heavily touristed town on the road to Machu Picchu. With store profits we are able to buy textiles approximately every 6 weeks to ensure a sustainable and regular income for the women, run workshops to improve textile quality, and maintain a general fund for the weavers to use for project resources as well as emergency health and education needs. We are always looking to diversify our weavers' access to markets to ensure a variety of income channels, and we have pioneered new projects to sustain these connections. Our Sustainable Tourism Program promotes Quechua culture and the weaving tradition with visits, homestays, and weaving lessons in our weavers' communities. Awamaki Lab hosts designers who incorporate weavers' textiles into contemporary pieces that are reproduced by our sewing coop of 5 local women and sold in our store. The 13 women in the knitting Coop are trained to create luxury knit products for sale at our store. The coops maintain general funds into which the women invest a percentage of their payments which Awamaki matches, creating a fast-growing savings account that provides additional financial stability and the opportunity for future growth. This combination of projects affords women throughout the Patacancha Valley a degree of financial independence that they can use for food, health, and education needs for themselves and their families.
About You
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name


Organization Country

, CU

Country where this project is creating social impact

, CU

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Miguel Galdo Espinoza, Awamaki's Community Liaison Officer and President and Emma Hague, Director of Awamaki's Textile Project, are the driving force behind our project. Miguel has worked for over nine years in the Quechua communities of the Patacancha Valley and has formed a strong relationship with the weavers, based on trust, confidence, and mutual understanding. Fluent in both Spanish and Quechua, Miguel not only knows the women well but is also able to converse with them in their native tongue and with a friendly rapport, a skill that helps reinforce the confidence of the weavers in Awamaki. Emma, with a background in anthropology, human rights, and fair trade, works alongside Miguel to maximize his connections with the communities in the Sacred Valley. She has used her expertise in textiles and sustainable fashion to extend Awamaki's presence to the international textile market.
Awamaki was founded in January 2009. Awamaki's principal program is a fair trade weaving project that supports an association of women weavers from impoverished rural Quechua communities in the Patacancha Valley, Peru. This program had run successfully for 5 years previously under another local NGO named CATCCO, until changes to the Board of Directors prompted Emma and Miguel as well as Project Coordinator Kennedy Leavens to express concern over the future of the project. To remedy this, and ensure a continuous and steady income for the women, the project was set up anew under the name Awamaki.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

Our success is based on our ability to provide sustainable income-generating opportunities to women in the Sacred Valley. In our first year and half, our main achievement was to successfully create market access for the women, an achievement that has generated a reliable income for them to use on food, education, health, and other expenses. We paid over $30,550 to our weavers in that time, and our project achieved sustainability through textile sales at our fair trade store in Ollantaytambo ($25,010, first 1.5 years) and through income earned from our sustainable tourism program, a program that allows tourists to visit Patacancha, a traditional Quechua village, and to learn about the craft of weaving. We have established international avenues of sales for our weavers with our attendance at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market (over $4,000 in sales, 2010) and opened online store, profits from which will yield a greater income for our weavers. Profits from the store and sustainable tourism program have allowed us to open a general fund for the weavers to use for projects of their collective deciding, providing them with additional economic independence. Furthermore we have run capacity-building workshops in natural dyes (recuperating use of 100% natural dyes among our weavers) and sewing techniques to increase the quality and range of products our weavers can produce and have built a weaving center in Patacancha to serve as a central meeting place for our weavers and tourist educational center for trekkers. This year has seen increased sales and the successful founding of Awamaki Knitting and Sewing Coops, providing economic opportunities to 18 additional women on the valley floor.

How many people have been impacted by your project?


How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?


How will your project evolve over the next three years?

Over the next 3 years we will concentrate on hiring more permanent, local staff members to manage the program. This will protect the program from potential volunteer shortages and it will strengthen recognition of Awamaki within the community of Ollantaytambo, where it is based, as a legitimate non-profit organization.
We will also focus on expanding the number of weavers, knitters, and sewers we work with--local staff will be integral in identifying those most in need. As we expand our market connections, we will grow our artisan groups at a sustainable rate to ensure a secure income for all.
We also want to deepen the range of opportunities we offer the women we work with, connecting them with local health and education non-profits and agencies.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

To ensure success in expanding our programs, we look for groups of women who are willing to to meet and work with Awamaki on a regular basis. Strong partnerships between Awamaki and the weavers develop by building relationships based on mutual trust and understanding, which require a degree of commitment from the communities in working with us. Moreover, to work with a group of women we require a fair degree of cohesiveness or internal organization within the group. If this is not pre-existing then it is something that the women must be amenable to create. Despite the careful measures we take, success in other communities can only really be measured in the long-term. There may be relationships that we form at the onset that prove impractical to maintain on a long-term basis, while others grow stronger with time. We are aware of the various difficulties that we are likely to encounter in more remote communities and try to anticipate them as best as possible in our initial discussions with the women weavers.
We are constantly looking to expand our access to the market—local and international sales, online sales, diversifying our product range, connecting with US retailers, participating in local and international textiles fairs—to ensure that our women have a regular income that they can count on. Being able to secure robust market access is the main barrier in our ability to expand to serve more women, but we will not begin expansion until we are sure we can achieve an income that will support all of Awamaki's artisans.

Tell us about your partnerships

Awamaki works closely with other NGOs in the Sacred Valley whose goals are to support indigenous communities. Organizations such as ourselves are required to communicate with each other in order to ensure that we are not overlapping our services, but rather directing our programs to where they are most needed. These contacts will be crucial in deciding which communities to expand to next.
Awamaki also relies on partnerships with businesses that have contact with the tourist industry in Peru e.g. hotels, hostals, restaurants. They help us to promote our fair trade store (currently our primary income-generator) and our sustainable tourism program. Likewise, we also have partnerships with businesses and organizations abroad who help to publicize the project, our textiles and the volunteer program. If we are to expand our project to work with more communities, then these partnerships will be essential in ensuring that we can continue to generate the market needed to support more weavers.

Explain your selections

Awamaki's primary source of income is from local sales of textiles to the tourist market. Secondary sources of income are generated by the Awamaki volunteer program (volunteer fees and donations), our sustainable tourism program (coordinating tours and homestays in the community of Patacancha, as well as workshops in traditional crafts), and a small amount of international sales.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

Expand the Weaving Project into at least 2 additional communities, providing over 100 women with market access and securing an income for them that will benefit their families and communities. The much needed production increase resultant from the expansion will satisfy the increased demand at our store in Peru, online, and from international sales partners. International sales generate greater profits, allowing us to reinvest a greater amount in our weaving communities. Our Knitting and Sewing Coops will undergo similar expansion. We will higher local staff to coordinate work in the communities.
Continue to make improvements to the quality of life in Patacancha, Kelkanka, and the new weaving communities. Focus on quality improvement and capacity-building workshops in the new communities, thereby increasing marketability of the textiles and also revitalizing the weaving tradition by recuperating and conserving lost aspects of the craft. Build relationships with more communities to explore further possibilities for expansion.
Further development and expansion of the program as we continue to support more women. In Patacancha we are currently making improvements to the weaving center by installing a sink to facilitate dyeing yarn, a dye plant garden, and an info-center for trekkers passing through the village to learn more about the weaving project. Depending on the different needs of the communities, we plan to similarly enrich their textile tradition by facilitating certain aspects of the weaving process and by creating education stations in each village.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Restricted access to new markets


Lack of skills/training


Other (Specify Below)

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

-Working with international staff fluent in the local language, we connect Quechua women to the textile markets through a variety of different channels (local store sales, online and international sales, product development, etc), giving them access to markets they would otherwise be restricted from due to their isolation and lack of Spanish language ability.
-Using our knowledge of textile demand, we run capacity-building workshops to increase our women's technique and the range of products they can produce in order that they generate the most marketable products and earn the greatest income.
-Our women live isolated in the highlands and are busy with agricultural tasks. We eliminate the need for the women to travel long distances and meet with them regularly in their own communities.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.



Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services


Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

In the next year we want to expand our weaving project to at least 2 additional communities of weavers, totaling 4 communities and over 100 women. We want to grow the size of our sewing cooperative from 5 to 20 women and expand our knitting coop to 2 additional communities on the valley floor.
Plans are also underway to deepen our relationships with our women artisans. We currently maintain funds for them to use as they collectively decide, and we are investigating local partnerships that will expand their access to healthcare and education opportunities.
We are currently seeking funding to increase the number of skill-building workshops for our weavers to make them more competitive internationally and to build a weaving center in Kelkanka, where there is no electricity.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies, Academia/universities.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

We have several academia connections that help us advertise our programs and our needs for volunteers. Several universities have hosted us at cultural fairs where we were able to sell our women's products.

Some local for-profit companies sensitive to our work have been generous in selling us merchandise for our store in Ollantaytambo at wholesale prices.

We collaborate with local NGOs reguarly to make sure that our services are not overlapping and that we are effectively addressing the community's needs.