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Lack of organization. Several attempts have been made, by local individuals themselves and through project support, to establish and strengthen a cooperative of spinners, but they have not yet been successful. Barriers are the nomadic lifestyle, long distances, high costs of travel and communication, a lack of infrastructure, as well as limited understanding of cooperation mechanisms, and insufficient trust among members. So the spinners are essentially an informal network of women connected to the marketing effort.
Lack of export skills. Even if they had a more formal organization to manage production, the spinners would still lack the knowledge, skills and resources to maintain the market links. They rely on the NGO to handle this aspect of the work.
Maintaining a steady supply of wool. Raw wool is available only after the spring shearing, so workloads are seasonal. Long distances and remoteness are major challenges to maintain the steady supply of wool that is a precondition for successful marketing.
Lack of regular buyer. If the women had a regular order they could decide how much wool to buy, and would be able to manage their work more easily. They could even consider applying for credit to buy wool.
Lack of capital and credit. Despite various rural microfinance programmes, it is still difficult for poor and remote households (and for groups) to access credit. Collateral requirements, short repayment terms and high interest rates are major barriers. Credit would enable spinners to buy sufficient amounts of raw wool when it is cheap, and to acquire a machine to de-hair and clean the raw wool.
ment and raw materials. Based on the number of non-herding households and the volume of camel wool available, it is fair to assume that in Gurvantes and two neighbouring districts, several hundred women would be interested in spinning yarn. A larger number of producers would make it easier to produce a regular supply of yarn.
Mechanizing laborious processes. Production could be increased further if the laborious cleaning and de-hairing process were mechanized. The women could continue to hand-spin at home. Feasibility studies are needed to calculate the production potential if groups of women had such equipment, or if a processing and production facility were established to employ spinners.
Ensuring socially responsible investment. Investment in the processing of wool should ensure good working conditions, child care, social insurance, continued training and fair wages and prices. The New Zealand Nature Institute is exploring ways to create a viable venture by building on the unique qualities of the wool, creating fairer trading conditions, and linking current initiatives to sources of expertise, funding or investment.
Geographical indication. With assistance from the European Union, the Mongolian government has established “Gobi desert camel wool” as a “geographical indication” – a kind of trademark that guarantees the origin of the wool. This certification requires that all processing steps are done in Mongolia. Registered producers can use the geographical indication logo as well as their own trademarks.
Expanding the international market. Although about 50 retailers in the USA and Europe carry the camel wool, re-orders are still rare. A major distributor has taken on the yarn since September 2008 and is undertaking a major marketing effort at trade shows and through its links. The next 6 months will be crucial to gauge demand and potential, and to determine whether larger regular orders could be placed with the spinners in Mongolia.
Developing a long term strategy. The outcome of this marketing effort will feed into a long term strategy, targeting more efficient production, further defining and refining the product, and determining the most viable option for production and marketing. Choices to be studied for feasibility include (a) an informal network of spinners (as now) linked to a fair trade initiative, (b) a larger cooperative with its own capacity to ensure regular supplies, quality control and marketing, (c) a local factory, run by a small business venture. The first two options may involve some mechanization.
MORE INFORMATIONNomad Yarns from Mongolia: www.nomadyarns.com New Zealand Nature Institute: www.nzni.org.mn Berenguer, L. 2006. Report on the product specifications for the Mongolian geographical indications: The Gobi desert camel wool GI case. ITC/DTCC/06/2816. 20 March 2006 (also available at http://tinyurl.com/kp2bo2).
Yondonsambuu, G., and D. Altantsetseg. 2003. Survey on production and manufacturing of the wool, cashmere, and camel hair. Mongolian Wool and Cashmere Association/MongolianGerman Project on “International Trade Policy/WTO”, Ulaanbaatar (also available at http:// tinyurl.com/ndq4uk).
PART 1: Wool and cashmere 51 Marketing of handicrafts made from Linca sheep wool in Patagonia, Argentina Luciana Cardinaletti, Julieta von Thüngen and María Rosa Lanari Tourists have many reasons to visit Bariloche. This town in Argentina’s Rio Negro province is nestled in the foothills of the Andes and is surrounded by scenic lakes. In winter it attracts skiers, while in summer people fleeing sultry Buenos Aires come to enjoy the lakes’ beaches, fish for trout, trek through the mountains and climb local peaks.
Many of the tourists buy local handicrafts as a souvenir of their visits: leather belts and bags, silver rings and pendants; liqueurs, jams, chutney and honey; ceramics and carvings.
Wool is also a speciality: ponchos, shawls, bags, sweaters, hats, socks, gloves, girdles, wallets: there is a vast range of types, using traditional designs from the area.
Perhaps the best place to pick up a souvenir is in Dina Huapi, a small town about 20 km northeast of Bariloche, on the road towards the Siete Lagos (Seven Lakes). On a crossroads here is the Mercado de la Estepa “Quimey Piuke” (which means Market of the Steppes “Good Heart” in Spanish and Mapuche), a shop filled with all kinds of traditional handicrafts. Visitors who browse through the shop rarely come away without a colourful woven bag or a jar of dulce de leche, a sweet syrup made of milk.
The pride of the Mercado sellers is the ponchos: traditional woollen garments worn by the region’s farmers. The ponchos are warm in winter, waterproof in the rain, and multifunctional, serving as a coat, cushion and blanket. There are many designs: stripes and patterns made of different naturally coloured wools: cream, light brown, ochre, dark brown and nearly black. The ponchos are not cheap – one may cost upwards of 2 500 pesos (about $660). But these are beautiful, hand-woven, individual items that take hundreds of hours to make on a traditional loom. With their traditional designs and natural colours, they encapsulate the region’s identity.
LINCA SHEEP Sheep raising is the main economic activity in this dry, windswept steppe. There are around 1 500 sheep raisers, who also keep cattle, horses, chickens and goats. Most of the sheep are Merinos – a breed that produces white, fine wool. About 30% of the sheep raisers are large-scale producers who keep flock of 2 000 or so Merinos on big farms averaging 8 500 ha each. They sell large amounts of wool to exporters.
The remaining 70% of producers operate at a smaller scale: they each have an average of 800 ha of land and about 200 animals. These producers live in remote villages, with poor roads that are impassable in winter. They sell wool to large companies at low prices: with only 800 kg of wool a year, individual producers do not produce enough to sell in bulk, and buyers have to incur higher costs to obtain their wool.
Adding value to livestock diversity
The wool in the ponchos comes from a particular breed of sheep called the Linca, or Pampa. These sheep have been in the area since the late 17th century, but the breed’s origin is not known: it is thought to be descended from Lincoln animals from England.
Linca sheep are variable in colour, ranging from light brown to very dark brown. Local craftswomen prize the wool: they say it is soft and has the right fibre length, so is good to weave with. Some 46% of the fleece is a fine down with an average fibre diameter of approximately 22.7 μm and length of 9 cm. The average guard hair staple length is 18.5 cm. The down is ideal in terms of length, softness and variety of colours for making ponchos and other products.
But the Linca is in danger. Stocks have been declining sharply recently through crossbreeding with Merinos, and because the major buyers do not want the coloured wool the Linca produces. A small number of small-scale producers, generally women, keep a few Linca sheep – perhaps 30 animals – among their Merino flock. There are very few purebred Linca flocks, and even fewer rams: an ongoing study has found only four producers with fewer than 200 animals in all, though there may be other flocks elsewhere in the region.
Many of the small-scale producers have roots in the indigenous Mapuche community.
The men in these small farms rear Merino animals and sell small amounts of wool at low prices to local dealers. The women’s role is to care for the home and children, to rear the Linca sheep. They spin and weave the wool of their own sheep (plus perhaps some wool PART 1: Wool and cashmere 53
FIGURE 14 Many Mapuche women spin wool to make traditional garments
bought from outside) to make traditional products such as ponchos and other garments, mainly for family use.
The women also sell wool, or woven items, to a few local traders who go from house to house; some also take their products to sell in town. But few traders come to the isolated villages, and local people rarely have a chance to travel, so have few chances to sell their products. Potential markets are too far away for individual farmers to reach. Sales are not high enough to encourage farmers to keep more Linca animals. And the farmers did not have the skills or connections to sell their products.
MERCADO DE LA ESTEPAThe solution was to organize as a network to overcome the physical and cultural distances.
This network has small towns as nodes where members can meet and discuss news, prices and techniques. The Mercado de la Estepa is the central hub, where every member can sell the products that she and other members have made. Today, the network it involves over 260 families from various parts of southern Rio Negro province. Nine-tenths of the members are women.
How did this network emerge? The organization that eventually became the Mercado de la Estepa was formed in 1999, when Surcos Patagónicos, a NGO promoting development of rural communities in Río Negro province started a weekend trade fair in Dina Huapi. This was a time of economic crisis in Argentina, and people had very little cash.
Local people came to the fair to barter goods: they exchanged wool, handicrafts, meat, fruit, vegetables and other products.
The first fairs were held out of doors. But winters in the area are cold, so in 2000 the fair moved indoors, and in 2001 the Mayor of Dina Huapi granted Surcos Patagónicos a piece of land to use for 10 years. Surcos Patagónicos collected donations and funds from government and private sources, and began constructing the building where the shop is now located. The building was opened in December 2003.
Adding value to livestock diversity Meanwhile, Surcos Patagónicos, the Programa Social Agropecuario (agricultural social programme) of the Ministry of Social Development and the Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria (National Institute of Agricultural Technology, INTA) agreed to work together to support the sheep raisers and craftswomen. These three organizations aim to better the livelihoods of rural people.
This team began by studying the production and marketing system and local people’s situation and needs. Then, during 2002 and 2003, they helped organize groups of local people in the Department of Pilcaniyeu, in western Rio Negro, near the city of Bariloche, and raise their awareness of their products and potential markets. Through a series of participatory workshops, the market Mercado de la Estepa was established, and a set of rules were drafted by the community to govern it.
The team and Mercado members took part in various local and regional trade fairs and exhibitions, and from 2004 on held several training courses on economics, organization and technical aspects of producing wool and leather handicrafts. In 2005 and 2006, new members joined the existing groups. New groups of producers in Pilcaniyeu and other departments had heard about the Mercado and negotiated to join it.
In 2007, the team helped the Mercado open a shop in downtown Buenos Aires, in collaboration with two other organizations (Silataj Foundation and Civic Association Niwok) working on indigenous fair-trade handicrafts from northern Argentina. This shop sells Patagonian products to consumers who do not have a chance to visit the Mercado itself in Dina Huapi.
GOVERNING THE MERCADOThe Mercado has its own constitution, and an assembly of representatives meets four times a year. The members are organized in zones, and each of the nine nodes elects two representatives. Assemblies are held in each node in rotation. The assembly elects a president, a vice-president, two committee members, a treasurer, and an auditor to manage the Mercado.
Someone can become a member of the Mercado in one of two ways. One is to apply for a guest membership, which allows her to sell items in the shop for 6 months. After this period, the organizing committee may approve her application for full membership. The other way is to be invited to join the Mercado by a permanent member. In both cases, the new member’s products must be approved by the organizing committee. The new member must also agree to serve as a salesperson in the Mercado to sell all members’ items.
The Mercado started out as a project of Surcos Patagónicos. In 2008 it was formally registered as an independent non-government organization.