As the Piassaba project in Chipaota developed, a group of community members, mostly women, identified an economic opportunity in the commercialization of their traditional forest handicrafts, sourced from natural products of the rainforest. In 2009, they requested Rainforest Partnership's assistance for the development and implementation of such a project and since that time, Rainforest Partnership has worked with the group to produce high quality handicraft items. The community members created the "Allima Waska" artisan group and Rainforest Partnership now works with them to create a successful business based upon these ancestral traditions.
Chipaota is an indigenous community of about 1,000 people with nearly 15,000 acres of community-titled land bordering Cordillera Azul National Park in the Amazonian region of northern Peru. This region is home to the Piassaba palm, an endemic species of this region of Peru. For many years, the community of Chipaota earned its primary income by selling the fibers of the Piassaba palm in the local market, but as the population of Chipaota grew, more and more residents sought to make a living by selling the fibers. The Piassaba palm began to be overexploited and the population of this unique palm in the area began to drop sharply.
Over the last few years, RP has worked with a group of 15 women to make their products more unique and distinctive in order to create a product that buyers will recognize as being made in Chipaota and to ensure a competitive edge over others offering similar products. In 2012 baskets were sold in Chipaota as well as Lamas, Tarapoto, and Lima, and the artisans received money for their work, allowing them to contribute financially to their family, which typically has been unusual in the community. This project has revived an ancestral livelihood that’s been missing in the present-day culture, and community members now have more value for this knowledge as a tool for a sustainable livelihood. If the partnership between the Chipaota community and Rainforest Partnership had not been born, promoting the creation of this group, the basket weaving tradition of this culture would have disappeared due to their replacement of plastic containers and the belief that these crafts were not considered a means for a sustainable alternative income.
Based on the requests from the Chipaota artisans, Rainforest Partnership is currently raising funds to the meet the community’s 2016 goals of growing their business through the following activities:
Educational workshops on the management of financial resources
These workshops will include topics such as how to manage tax obligations, making investments, sharing income from the sales of products, and managing income from visitors at the artisan house
Educational workshops on social issues including topics such as the preservation of cultural identity and gender equality
These topics were motivated by the women’s desire to be more active in the community and maintain the practice of weaving, a tradition the community was losing 5 years ago when this project was started.
An assessment of the current equipment and technology used by the artisans and the purchase of updated machinesMarket development in Lima and the U.S.
The assessment will include the possibility of access to electricity and thus electric tools, so that the artisans can make higher quality products in a much more efficient manner.
Updating product designs with help of artisans and experts who have experience working with fiber.