6/23/17 – This post is written by students in the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA program on the Fair Fibers team. These students – Callie, Herry, and Lucas – are in Peru for the summer investigating the alpaca supply chain.
Fair Fibers is excited to be in Peru this summer! Our plan? To investigate the unequal wealth distribution within the alpaca fiber supply chain. On average, an alpaca farmer will make $2.50 USD per kilogram of alpaca fiber sold. This same amount of fiber is sold in the Western market for over $175 USD. This is because the fiber changes hands up to 20 times before reaching the consumer. Each intermediary in the process takes a cut and this leaves farmers with low wages and no bargaining power.
Fair Fiber has visited each part of the supply chain from fiber to finished good. We have conducted several in-depth interviews, including with:
- The director of COOPECAN (a Peruvian cooperative of alpaca farmers with almost 2,000 members)
- the CEO of Suritex (a processes of alpaca fiber that’s dedicated to social and environmental impact)
- the director of Peru Opportunity Fund (a social impact investor funded by the Clinton Foundation), and
- the director of the Ministry of Product of Lima who is kickstarting a sustainable alpaca fiber production program.
In addition to these conversations, we have given two presentations at universities in Lima on our business model proposal and in-country research. What have we found? There is available supply of fairly-traded and ethically-produced fiber for the US market. Farmers are already working on building capacity and Fair Fiber can help accelerate this plan into a reality.
Our favorite part so far was visiting a weaving community in Patacancha, Peru. These women live at an altitude of 4,800 meters (over 15,000 feet!) and raise, sheer, and weave clothing and textiles made from alpaca. We got to try our hand at the weaving process and quickly learned how difficult it is. We spent 3 days living with, learning from, and connecting with this community whose livelihood relies on selling to the western market. We hope to collaborate with them in the future for production.
What’s next on our journey? We are going directly to the source to visit the alpaca farmers (alpagueros) in the altiplano of Peru. We have farm visits scheduled and can’t wait to meet some new fur-friends. Then, we’ll head to the processing facilities that also have fair trade certifications to look at how the fiber is transformed into clothing and accessories for western markets. From all of these visits, we plan to build the foundation to create a sustainable for-profit business as a solution to this challenge.
Follow our adventures this summer at facebook.com/fairfiber or on instagram @fairfiber.