At Andes Gifts we want to prove that affordable high quality, hand-made products can be sourced ethically and sustainably thereby benefiting the individuals and communities involved. We started with this ideal and have developed our unique production infrastructure accordingly, to accommodate the realities of the area of the world in which we work, the highlands of Bolivia and Peru.
At present, hundreds of wonderful Aymara and Quechua women are busy knitting the items which we are proud to sell. What make the Andes Gifts approach unique?
-Real economic impact in rural indigenous communities (see video)
We abide by the principles of Fair Trade and pay a fair / living wage to the hundreds of rural knitters who hand-craft our products. Thanks to the continued support of our customers, our knitters have projects year round. The money they earn is substantial and it directly impacts them and their families.
These are largely underdeveloped and impoverished communities. Bolivia is the second poorest county is the western hemisphere, and the rural areas of the Peruvian highlands are only slightly more developed, at best. With the money they earn they gain access to a better diet, improved educational opportunities for their children, or whatever other priorities they see as being worthy. One of the many indirect effects of this economic impact is that many of these women gain self-confidence and a sense of pride by being able to be providers for their families.
-Technical training in rural indigenous communities (see video)
By going to and providing free knitting instruction in rural indigenous communities where there are few if any employment opportunities , we have been able to further rural development while not damaging the social fabric of these areas. This technical training enables knitters to stay in their communities and continue to learn new skills and in turn produce a wider array of products which helps them fulfill a larger diversity of product orders. With increased proficiency comes increased self-confidence and enthusiasm for their work. Computer literacy, basic bookkeeping skills, and product design and development are also taught, which greatly improve the knitting co-operatives organizational and creative capacities..
-Andes Gifts micro loan program
Over the last 7 years we have given out over 150 no interest / no collateral loans to both individuals and groups of artisans (Other credit is available in rural Bolivia and Peru, but at high interest rates and never without some type of collateral put down to secure the loan). In capital deficient areas of the world, such as where we work, micro-loans have been shown to allow people to improve their standard of living and increase their earning capacity. Our experiences reflect this as well. As of now we have experienced about a 98% payback rate, which we believe is exceptional.
-No sweatshops (see video)
Our alternative production model respects and reinforces local traditions and the family structure. Almost all of our knitters work either in their own homes or together with other knitters in workshops, in their communities, where they swap stories, share ideas, and have access to tools and materials. They work at their own pace, in clean, spacious, and safe environments.
The knitters believe that there are many other advantages to this model. A vast majority of them have children whom they are able to stay in proximity to and to care for. As has been the case with many factory workers, they are not forced to either relocate to a larger city or lose their source of income. They spend very little money on work related transport. They work only the amount that they desire or are able to and don’t have the constant pressure of factory style production deadlines. Also, this flexibility allows them to stay close to and participate in their local traditions and customs. One such rural tradition in both Peru and Bolivia is the potato harvest or “chacra”.