From: Cochas Chico, Tambo, Huancayo
Group Members: Daniel, Rosa, Virgilio, Joel
The members of Llamkay Tuki initially were introduced to Fair Trade through one of the associates of the Peru Joining Hands Network. They had to overcome many difficulties to form the solid group they are today.
When they first began to work, not all members of the group knew a lot about the art of gourd carving, or mate burilado, as it is called in Spanish. Many of their first samples were rejected because they were not of good quality. With advice and help from Fair Trade, they began to improve the quality and a few products were accepted. They persevered through a couple of failed opportunities and have faith in the continual challenge to turn Llamkay Tuki into a sustainable business with “beautiful work,” one translation of their Quechua name.
With Fair Trade, Llamkay Tuki has received training on how to produce a quality product and how to run a business. They purchase all of the gourds from an area on the northern coast of Peru called Trujillo, and they have learned how to pick out the gourds of the best quality, without cracks or other faults. They also have to be prepared for fluctuating prices of the gourds because some years bring better and more abundant crops than others. Knowing that the price can change year-to-year, they can set aside a little extra money as an emergency fund.
The area where the members of Llamkay Tuki live, Cochas Chico, is a colony of artisans where almost 80% of the population specialize in carved gourd art. Llamkay Tuki was selected for the Fair Trade project out of a large pool of qualified artisans and continues to show their skill. The work requires great concentration and skill. They must wash the gourd, draw on the design in pencil, burn the design, carve, wash, paint, wash, shine, and then make any cuts or attach any strings depending on what product they are making. Daniel specializes in burning the designs into the gourd using various types of fuels. Rosa specializes in carving the thin and delicate lines that outline the designs.
The members of Llamkay Tuki are Evangelical Christians who strive to practice group solidarity and equity. When they receive a larger order, they invite neighbors and friends to work with them. Also, they distribute the pay and work to those with greater need.
Daniel says, “Fair Trade has helped us a lot to work on the quality and know how to buy gourds of top quality. It also has helped us improve our living situation. The other groups in Cochas only work for themselves, but we have learned with Fair Trade to share equally.” Their vision for the future is to continue increasing their orders and improving their workshop because it is not yet complete. They would like to be able to purchase a few new tools to increase the range of their work.