Tejiendo Futuro: Building Sustainable Businesses for Women Artisans in Peru after Natural Disasters

Mariana Iturrizaga
3 June 2019 - In 2017, the Piura River rose 1.8 metres and burst its banks and flooded Catacaos, a town in northern Peru known for its gastronomy and crafts.

In Juana Solano’s workshop, two years later, the high watermark can still be seen.

Juana was eight when her mother taught her to weave, passing down the ancient family tradition that she had learned, in turn, from her mother. 

Juana’s business, like those of other weavers in town, was severely affected by the flood and subsequent mudslide, which killed several people, affected more than 90,000, swept away the work of more than 300 women, and left them unemployed for several months.

In the six months following the flood, Juana’s income dropped by 90 percent. She estimates she lost more than US$12,000. She was not alone. About 70 percent of the town’s artisans were in a similar predicament.

But she and the other women business owners have learned from the disaster and have, with UNDP’s help, used it to strengthen their associations, businesses, and lives.

"The rain didn't take us. We're still weaving, we're recovering," she says. 

María Mendoza is weave master and leader of the Virgen del Socorro Association, which began in 1987 with 30 women weavers. She vividly remembers her craftwork being carried away by the floods.

But she and her daughter Cecilia picked up the pieces and went back to work again to regain what was lost. 

All the women are part of Tejiendo Futuro, an initiative developed by UNDP and the private sector to rebuild and strengthen Catacaos businesses, and to prepare themselves for future disasters which hopefully will not affect them so badly. 

Through UNDP's support, these association leaders have not only reactivated their economy, but they're also stronger than ever. They now have sustainable business plans and contingency strategies in cooperation with the local government, to avoid the negative consequences of a future flood, and now these artisans can dream big.

Piura's Tourism and Commerce Bureau is working with artisans to connect them with international markets, as well as networking with national and international designers to further develop and improve their products.


Image: UNDP Peru/Mónica Galindo, Jose Olcese, Rico Cruz