Llama Fiber Supply Chain Sustainability in Bolivia
Event Start Date: March 24, 2017 1:30 PM
Event End Date: March 24, 2017 3:00 PM
MDP Final Presentation by Rebecca Starkman
Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America, with an estimated 8% of the 10.7 million population living below the income poverty line of $1.25 a day (Human Development Reports, 2015). The Andean highlands, particularly the Altiplano region of Bolivia, is home to the largest llama population in the world. Llama husbandry is a prominent livelihood strategy, most notably because it is one of the only viable productive activities in the region. For smallholder farmers, llamas are a means of livelihood and subsistence, providing income and resources such as meat, leather, manure for fuel and fertilizers, and fiber (Ansaloni et al., 2013). As part of the field practicum for the Masters of Sustainable Development Practice program, I collaborated with the company Cotopaxi to conduct an exploratory analysis of their llama fiber supply chain. In particular, this supply chain pertained to Cotopaxi’s line of jackets and blankets, which are made with llama fiber sourced from Bolivia. The proposed initiative by Cotopaxi was to find out what they could achieve through their llama fiber supply chain in terms of improving livelihoods of rural llama farmers, sustainability, and product development decisions.
The objectives of this study were to contribute to a better understanding of llama farming communities in the Altiplano, conduct a supply chain mapping, and identify stakeholders. Interviews were conducted with llama farmers (internal and external to the supply chain), intermediaries, and a sample of respondents from NGOs, Bolivian government, universities, and private businesses. Observations were also part of the data collection. Findings revealed that there was prominent production of llama meat in areas where llama fiber was sourced, and that llama fiber, as raw material, was in need of industrial refining to gain value. Further findings
related to factors such as animal health maintenance, shearing capability, and llama farming from the perspectives of smallholder llama farmers and other interview participants. There were limitations that existed in conducting the supply chain mapping, however there is merit for Cotopaxi to continue their supply chain initiatives in Bolivia.