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.
-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.