MINKA

Peru 
Woman spinning - this is their traditional clothing.
Woman spinning - this is their traditional clothing.

Purpose

MINKA's mission is to promote the sustainable development of producer organisations while affirming cultural identity and preserving the natural environment.

MINKA's ultimate goal is to strengthen the rural community organisations so they can better meet the needs of the villagers.

MINKA was an active promoter of fair trade and the first southern member of IFAT. Strengthening involves reducing poverty using fair trade through working with artisans who use age-old techniques to produce the finest quality products. The purchase of these handcrafted items not only contributes to an increased income, but also works towards preserving ancient techniques, traditions, and lifestyles.

MINKA aspires towards something greater than fair trade; satisfied customers who are happy to co-operate with them and purchase their products.

MINKA is Quechua for "Co-operative" which reflects a system of values that champions education and capacity building by defending quality, responsibility, opportunity, fulfilment, responsibility, perseverance, creativity, solidarity and reciprocity.

Producers

MINKA is comprised of 62 community organisations (30 are community groups, and the remainder are in family arrangements) involving 3,000 artisans and farmers who are affiliated with MINKA Fair Trade. The organisations can be found in most parts of Peru, with a concentration on the Altiplano in the Andes, where alpaca knitters and weavers work, as do the ceramic artists of Cuzco and Ayacucho.

 

Producers suffer from poverty - most of them live at altitude in a harsh climate where sparse cropping is possible, and they require an additional source of income to supplement what they can grow. They are also marginalised because they are indigenous people, largely left out of the cash economy, they are mainly women and traditionally very exploited by middlemen when they come to sell their products as they have no direct access to the markets.

Benefits

MINKA is Quechua for "Co-operative" which reflects a system of values that champions education and capacity building by defending quality, responsibility, opportunity, fulfilment, responsibility, perseverance, creativity, solidarity and reciprocity. The producer organisations which have developed around the process of producing against orders from Minka have provided a community focus for solving problems and providing support. For example, one community has solved the problem of secondary school children living too far from the town where the school is: they have rented a house, and adults take turns in living there to supervise the village children who board there.

MINKA provides training and help in reinforcing democratic organisations; they record what each artisan produces and provide training accordingly. Training covers the full range of tasks involved through to packaging, record keeping and pricing. Help in developing new products is also offered, and funds are held by MINKA to assist in emergencies including health problems.

There has been focus on diversifying products for the same producer groups " e.g. into food and tourism.
Saleable food output is still very small and is produced by very poor farmers who have only very small surpluses to sell. Their production costs are high.

Prices are largely determined by the prices charged by competitors and price setting is discussed fully with the supplying organisations. MINKA makes at least a 50% advance payment to producers. The remainder is paid once the items are received by MINKA. There is no gender discrimination in payments and wages.

In 2000, MINKA formalised a tourism project with the aim of not only increasing incomes, but forming direct relationships with consumers (both current and potential), exchanging experiences, demonstrating traditional techniques, sharing inherited philosophies of life and, most importantly, demonstrating the impact that fair trade had in their communities and lives.

Watch MINKA

More photos...

The sense of community and togetherness between all the women was so apparent.
The experts making ocarinas!
Decorating the fired products.
Evangeline Yucra, a weaver with MINKA, Peru.
Alberto explaining the traditional clothing.

Products