Investing in Peruvian alpacas
High in the Peruvian Andes, Oikocredit supports the traditional farming of alpacas, a South American herd animal and cousin of the Llama. Alpacas live in high altitude areas, between 3,500 to 5,000 metres above sea level, and are traditionally farmed for their high quality wool.
Alpaca farmers often live in remote areas of Peru, in harsh, cold climates. Those with smaller herds tend to have very low incomes, living in clay houses to be close to their herds, with no power. Many farmers are unable to invest in medication or better food for their alpacas. Commercially, they struggle because they lack access to the market or have little negotiation power to sell their wool.
To support this traditional farming sector and contribute to the social development of alpaca farmers, Oikocredit recently partnered with Cooperativa de Produccion y Servicios Especiales de los Productores de Camelidos Andinos Ltda (COOPECAN).
COOPECAN works with around 15,500 alpaca farmers and their families, encouraging economic, social and environmental development. Being a member of COOPECAN gives farmers access to fair prices for their wool, as well as services to help improve the quality of the wool and health of the alpacas.
Oikocredit country manager for Peru and agricultural specialist, Carina Torres, has worked closely with COOPECAN since it partnered with Oikocredit last year. Carina has visited many of the farmers to see first-hand their living conditions and how COOPECAN works with the farmers.
“When I first visited the alpaca farmers, or as we say, ‘alpaqueros’, I saw why these farmers needed a cooperative like COOPECAN,” Carina explained. “Many baby alpacas were dying or getting sick, which meant farmers couldn’t earn enough money to support their families, or sold their wool to intermediaries for a very low price.”
By being a member of COOPECAN, farmers are provided with services such as better medication for sick animals or the improvement of grass lands, so the alpacas have better feed, resulting in higher quality wool.
This is the case for alpaca farmer Nicomedes Cochama Yava (pictured), who has benefitted greatly by being a member of the social cooperative. Nicomedes lives in the mountains with his herd while his wife and eight children live three and a half hours away in the town of Sicuani.
Even though Nicomedes owns 200 alpacas, a herd that should be large enough for one family, he did not earn enough money to pay for his expenses and send his children to school. Nicomedes became a member of COOPECAN to get a guaranteed better price for his wool, as well as access to services to help him improve the quality of his herd’s wool and earn enough money to provide for his family.
Aside from receiving a better price for their wool, members are also given additional payments once the wool has been processed and sold. COOPECAN employs around 12 people who dye and knit the wool to make garments for export. The alpaca wool garments are sold to a buyer in Italy, with the rest sold on the local Peruvian market. Oikocredit provided a credit line of US$ 150,000 to the cooperative to improve its wool collection services and support its daily operations and social mission.