Excitement High Amongst Shipibo Artisans Following Eco-yarn Workshops

“Eco-yarn,” or yarn made from plastic bags, is proving an innovative and exciting way to use excess plastic bags—and to create income—in Amazon communities. Alianza Arkana recently organized three two-day workshops to teach eco-yarn techniques in the communities of Junin Pablo, Santa Clara and Santa Rosa de Dinamarca, near Pucallpa in the Peruvian Amazon.

In Shipibo communities, there is a growing waste problem—much of it plastic. There is no government recollection service, and communities have no experience dealing with this dramatic increase of plastic in their communities. In this context, Alianza Arkana has created a project that works with local artisans to use excess plastic bags to crotchet products including cell phone cases, handbags and belts. Waste becomes a resource to create new, functional, and beautiful products.

We initiated our project in Tres Unidos, in the Loreto region of the Peruvian Amazon. This mestizo community is situated next door to a healing centre, where local women are able to sell eco-yarn products to mostly Western visitors. These artisans have organized themselves as a group, and now donate 10% of all their profits from sales to a communal social project.

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Alianza Arkana has now brought the project to the Ucayali region, with the help of the artisans from Tres Unidos. The workshops delivered last week were run by Rosana Velarde Moreno, one of the women working in Tres Unidos, where they have been making eco-yarn products for nearly a year now.

Thirty women attended the workshop in Santa Rosa de Dinamarca, some of which had attended a previous eco-yarn workshop organised by Alianza Arkana in the Shipibo community San Francisco in March 2012. Attendants picked up the basics quickly and were soon exchanging new stitching techniques with great enthusiasm, and plenty of smiles.

Project founder Amanda Suutari said: “In addition to addressing waste and bringing in income, this will be a new form of creative expression for these women, and most of all, something to bring people together and have fun with.”

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On the second day the women pressed ahead, producing a range of creative designs. Eighteen year old Marili Chavez commented, “There has been a lot of progress, and we have learnt a lot. I´d made some (eco-yarn) products before, and now I´ve seen it was easy for me to learn how to make new ones.”

On completing the workshop, participants elected a committee composed of a president, secretary and treasurer to head the organization of their group. As a mark of their enthusiasm, the women in Dinamarca also asked us to organize another longer workshop in the near future.

Deborah Rivett, Wednesday, 27 February 2013

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