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Thought the Textiles Series was finished? Think again, my friend. One more final follow up, but this time more specific to the AASD’s work with traditional Peruvian textiles and the people that make them.

Overview

As you probably know, the AASD is helping connect rural indigenous artisans to international markets. Currently, we work with one women’s weaving association located in Choquecancha, Peru. This association is called Wiñay Warmi, which means “Growing Women” in Quechua. And that’s just what we help these women do. We help them grow.

How do we help them wiñay (grow)?

The connection of rural artisans to an international market serves as a temporary avenue for income generation. The goal? Sustainable income and women’s empowerment. But the kicker – and the big difference between the AASD and many other organizations – is that we don’t envision our involvement as a forever thing. We use our temporary involvement as a way to help the women organize, learn basic business essentials (such as savings and investment), and make their own decisions about their future. We help facilitate that learning process. This is the way to a sustainable income, and it empowers women and girls to seize the opportunity.

Wiñay Warmi Update

We’ve been unsure about our progress and impact until recently. Over the course of the last year and a half, the AASD has been selling INKAcases, a product that we make from textiles that the AASD purchases from Wiñay Warmi. The women have saved a small amount of money, which they plan to reinvest into a local business. This business will be fully operated by the women’s group.

Watching the process unfold has been a moving experience, and the women don’t quite understand its impact. At least not yet. They took the initiative to discuss small business ventures, and they deliberated as a group about pros and cons. They democratically came to an agreement. They saved money collectively, something previously unthinkable for many in this impoverished community.

So what is that business?

It’s a CUY BUSINESS! That’s right. Guinea pigs. With the help of the local government technicians, the women will reinvest their hard earned savings into growing and selling guinea pigs. (If you are unaware, guinea pigs are one of the few sources of protein in the rural Quechua communities.)

So next time you’re in Choquecancha, maybe you can purchase a delicious WIñay Warmi cuy meal. ~Cheryl 

Recently Ruben and I asked Raul, one of the Choquecancha greenhouse overseers what organic/ecological agriculture meant to him. Below is a rough transcription of the Spanish recording. Hopefully we can share the recording soon when we get enough bandwidth!  Raul had much more to share but this is a tid bit of what makes ecological growing important to him. As he stood in the greenhouse Raul made it clear that growing without pesticides and chemical additives is extremely important for the health of the community. He sees the value from the point of human and ecological health. The school year is just getting started again so we’re excited to work closer with Raul and other enthusiastic organic growers at the schools. In the meantime, enjoy this update:  

Ruben: Raul, what does ecological and organic agriculture mean to you? What do you understand about this method of agriculture?

Raul: I understand that organic agriculture is about woringk naturally with no chemicals. This means working with guano de corral and compost. The products are healthier for our children and ourselves.

Ruben: What do you know about chemical agriculture? Why is it not important to you?

Raul: For me it is not important because it brings sickness and plagues. For example if we put fertilizer on a plant, it will grow large and produce a lot. But it has no nutritional value, it is not healthy. It will eventually get pests and plagues and this is not good.

 

Studies show that 90% of income earned by women is reinvested back into the health and education of their families.

 

So let’s invest in them!  Especially today on International Women’s Day. Naturally we want to give a shout out to all the women involved in AASD, especially the women weavers of Choquecancha. These skilled weavers make the beautiful designs seen on our INKAcase line. Support these women of Choquecancha on International Women’s Day by checking out their beautiful work here! Proceeds from all INKAcase purchases go directly back to the women who created the beautiful textiles. If you want to learn more about Andean weaving, check out the last 2 blog posts in our Textiles Series:  1) Quechua Colors and 2) Artistic Expressions In Time

Most importantly, check out the above pictograph, explaining the VALUE we see in investing in women not only in Choquecancha, but all over the world! Here’s to the change making women of the world!

 

 

 

Traditional textiles constitute an important part of the lives of indigenous families of the Andean Mountains of Peru. These textiles hold not only economic value, but also social and political significance that span thousands of years. Color has played a pivotal role in that importance, indicating significance and hierarchical status. The specialized knowledge of identifying, extracting, and applying color to objects was almost lost in Peru. Until fairly recently, many of the “traditional” Peruvian textiles didn’t use natural plant dyes since it was easier – and cheaper – to use synthetically-made dyes. Plus, the colors were more vibrant.

In the last twenty years, though, there’s been a resurgence of natural plant use for dyes. The increase in demand from tourists for “handmade” textiles is certainly helping to recover some of that forgotten knowledge. With Peru’s unique biodiversity, plants per region vary tremendously, making the textile colors of different regions vary, as well.

In some instances, plants are directly boiled with the wool to produce the desired color. In other instances, additives, such as iron sulphates, must be added. Here are some natural plants that the Choquecancha Wiñay Warmi weaving group uses to produce desired colors:

* YELLOW – Q’olle, a small tree with yellow flowers. Wool is boiled with the plant at varying lengths of time to vary the color’s intensity.

* RED – Cochineal, an insect found on the prickly pear cactus. Use of cochineal is declining, however, due to its high value in markets.

* BLUE – Tara, a bean-like pod.

* GREEN – Nunuqay, a small local plant.

* Of course, as with using any natural substance, the sustainability and environmental impact of using a local resource ought to be considered. ~Cheryl

Click here to check out some of the textiles we work with, all made with these natural dyes!

Giant swiss chard from the Choquecancha greenhouse. Now, this photo may not do it justice but this stuff was up to my waist and half my width. Yes, I know I am a short 5’1″ but nonetheless, I’d say that’s one giant chard plant. Looks like beyond organic growing practices can still yield massive and tasty veggies. For a place like Choquecancha that never grew much more than corn, this giant leafy green marks a pretty exciting event for the veggie laden school greenhouse.  Hooray for warm greenhouses and fertile soil!

Sixto helps manage and maintain the Choquecancha primary school greenhouse. Ruben took this photo of Sixto in action, harvesting some giant cauliflower last week. His enthusiasm and hard work keeps the students involved. He works above and beyond to make sure the greenhouse looks good all the time too. We value the enthusiasm of community members such as Sixto who take pride in ensuring the continued success of the school greenhouse projects. Next year, we hope to work closer with Sixto, giving him even more tools for innovating and advancing the school greenhouse project alongside the students of Choquecancha.