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man hugging white alpaca in the foreground with herd and green hills behind him

What social responsibility means to Tuwi

It’s almost a year since my last trip to Peru, for the World Fair Trade Organisation Summit. I had a wonderful time and found two new suppliers, but the poverty I witnessed only served to strengthen my commitment to fair trade principles, leading to more sustainable communities. And in the past year, Tuwi’s heartland has seen so much suffering that I’m more convinced than ever that I made the right choice in choosing only to work with Fair Trade certified suppliers.

Fair trade principles do not only mean paying a fair price for the products (although that is important). Fair trade means making the suppliers’ economic base more sustainable so that the communities that depend on them are stronger and better able to survive disasters such as the pandemic.

Despite these being such anxious times for my friends and contacts in Peru, I’m inspired by the efforts being made by my suppliers to secure their employees’ future. 

Embroidered heart ornaments

I was introduced to Sumaq Qara at last year’s summit and immediately commissioned Tuwi’s beautiful embroidered wool heart ornaments (we give them to our customers as a free gift from Tuwi) . Sumaq Qara has trained 700 rural women in the Ayacucho region to support their families using their traditional skills (they have an average of seven children, and might be the only wage earner).

Our knitted babywear supplier is also a fair trade collective from the Ayacucho area, which has been helping rural artisans to develop their businesses since 2007. It includes a group of around 60 knitters  (both men and women, as men also knit in Peru) who are making Tuwi’s alpaca baby hats, rompers, sweaters and vests. 

Education is key to sustainability, not only supporting schools and training employees but increasing the knowledge of the entire production chain, starting with the herders and their families. Pacomarca,  the Sustainable Alpaca Network’s brand, which invests in helping peasant alpaca breeders to improve the quality and yield of their herds’ alpaca fibre (and therefore their income). If you have spare 5 minutes, I recommend to watch this beautifully made video by Inoue brothers about  this project

https://vimeo.com/147577511

Another large producer in the Puno area has set up the Mirasol education project, which runs a weekly boarding school for around 50 children from herders’ communities. 

The COVID-related death toll has continued to rise in Peru since my last blog, to more than 26,000, a rise of more than a third in a month. It now has now 558,000 cases, still the highest total in Latin America after Brazil.

So Tuwi has just run a second promotion in aid of our favourite charity, Aldeas Infantiles.  Check out my last blog to read about the charity’s work to help the poorest families in the Arequipa area survive the economic effects of the pandemic.

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