Do you try to support women-owned businesses and organizations when you travel? Check out this opportunity for your next trip to Peru!
The Women’s Weaving Cooperative near Cusco, Peru, is a brilliant example of sustainable tourism that benefits the community. The local ladies here have transformed their lives through tourism while holding on to their cultural identity.
With a little help from the G Adventures Non-Profit organisation Planeterra, tourists can come and witness local culture and have a positive impact on the place they are visiting.
Arriving in the Sacred Valley
Driving through the patchwork hillsides of the Sacred Valley in Peru, it’s clear to see the enduring culture here.
The people’s close relationship with the land has shaped the landscape, with terraces cut out of the mountains showing the advanced agriculture of times past.
Steep hillsides were sectioned off by the Incas to provide food for a once-great civilization, including the inhabitants of Machu Picchu. Indigenous people have carried on these farming techniques, living off of the land for centuries.
As we pulled in to the small village of Ccaccaccollo on our way to hike the Inca Trail, I knew we were about to experience something special.
Having already spent a month exploring Peru’s capital (Lima), the Pacific Coast and the highest navigable lake in the world (Lake Titicaca), I thought Peru had already challenged my perceptions of Latin America.
It was a vast country, with Colca Canyon (the second deepest canyon in the world), the second-largest slice of the Amazon Rainforest, and a hike that often tops travellers’ bucket lists (the aforementioned Inca Trail).
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Peru has it all.
Desert oasis, deep dark jungle, and rainbow mountains.
A captivating ancient culture with great monuments and tales of human sacrifice.
But this wasn’t what stood out.
For me, Peru’s culture and people changed what it meant to travel. I was no longer just looking at the scenery out of a bus window, or taking photos of things I couldn’t pronounce.
The people of Peru opened the door to their world and let me see it through their eyes.
The Women’s Weaving Project in Ccaccaccollo
Arriving at the project, it’s impossible not to be blown away by the smiles and welcoming nature of the women weavers.
Llamas and alpacas wander around and stalls full of handcrafted artisan products line the way.
There is a huge sense of pride in the products for sale here. From socks to cardigans, all items are made with an immense amount of care.
Everything is made in the traditional Incan way, from the dyes being naturally extracted to the intricate designs on the scarfs and shawls that have been passed down from mother to daughter for generations.
Why is the Women’s Weaving project important?
The Planeterra-supported women’s weaving project is in the small village of Ccaccaccollo, about an hour’s drive from Cusco, en route to the start of the Inca Trail in Ollantaytambo.
When G Adventures started hiring local men to be porters for their trips to Machu Picchu, the women asked if they, too, could benefit from tourism.
Many were single parents, widowed or divorced, and struggled to provide an income for their families.
Starting with just three ladies, Planeterra funded their training to bring back the art of weaving that had nearly been lost to past generations.
The project now involves 55 women and reports that the younger generations are starting to benefit by going to university.
They are also the first generation in the community to be completely literate in Spanish, greatly increasing the chance for prosperity while keeping their culture and heritage at the heart of their success.
What is G Adventures?
G Adventures have been doing travel differently from the start. Founder Bruce Poon Tip didn’t just want to create another group travel company; he knew that the true value of travel is the communities you get to experience along the way.
G Adventures focuses on the positive impact travel can have on the world as a whole, if done in the right way. It is our responsibility to support the places we visit and leave a positive impact on the communities we are experiencing.
In his latest book “Unlearn” he talks about travel post-COVID-19 as an opportunity. “I hope that one of the things we get from this generation-defining event is that we think more about people as individuals wherever we go and conduct ourselves accordingly,” he writes.
“That means being as conscientious when we travel as we are at home, not only by reducing single-use plastic to help the turtles, but by travelling in ways that don’t rip people off.”
What is Planeterra?
Planeterra was set up as G Adventures’ Non-Profit arm and has started similar small community projects across the world.
Many projects support women in countries that struggle with inequality, like the “Women On Wheels” program in India. The program trains professional female drivers in a typically male-dominated transport industry.
Planeterra projects also help to set up community-owned accommodation and restaurants where the money you spend goes straight back to the locals.
This provides jobs and opportunities for the people that live in the places you visit, rather than tourism only benefitting foreign businesses.
There are currently 85 projects around the globe that are supported by Planeterra.
You can choose to donate a dollar a day when on a G Adventures trip, make a one-off contribution, or simply visit one of the fantastic projects while on a trip of a lifetime.
Meeting the beautiful people of Peru and the Women’s Weaving Project had a lasting impression on me. Giving me a whole new sense of the importance of sustainable travel and the impact we can all have on the world if we make better choices with where to spend our hard-earned money.
For many, travel can be a life-changing experience. It helps us to see the world in a new way, through someone else’s eyes.
To me, there is no better reason to travel than to experience other cultures first-hand and, if we can, leave the places we visit better off in some small way.