Stories

In the village of Pay Pay in Peru, a small weaving workshop has improved the lives of the women who work there. With a little help from Statkraft.

Woman weaving

When Statkraft establishes itself in a new location, it is critical to build a good relationship with the local community.

The weaving workshop in Pay Pay is one of Statkraft's social projects in the impoverished Jequetepeque Valley, where the Gallito Ciego power plant is located.

These corporate responsibility (CR) projects in the valley were started by SN Power when it received a license to take over the power plant in 2003 and are being continued by Statkraft.

"I knew how to weave, but now I'm getting paid for my work. That has really changed my life," says Emiliana Reyes Rubio.

Trust is important when Statkraft establishes itself in areas where people have had bad experiences with international companies.

Independence

"When we enter new areas, we map the strengths and weaknesses of the local communities, conduct analyses, and come up with proposals for projects," says Karla Eche, who until recently was Statkraft's Head of CR in Peru.

"The aim is that people should be able to fend for themselves better than they did before we arrived."

Eche has taken us to a small brick house in the village of Pay Pay. In the simple weaving workshop, small children are passed from lap to lap while the women explain what their jobs mean to them. The money they receive for the scarves, tablecloths, bags and clothes they produce is a welcome addition to their family finances, but other aspects of the job are just as important.

Previously, many of the women worked alongside their husbands in the fields, or helped them, as they put it. Now they have their own independent jobs to go to, in a workplace that employs nearly 30 women from Pay Pay and the surrounding area.

When the weaving project started five years ago, the women began to work together for the first time. To be a member of a community where members helped and learned from each other was a new experience, and not least they got a forum for exchanging ideas, something else the farm women did not have before.

"I've got more confidence and dare to say what I think, even when I talk to my husband," says one of the women. Many others nod enthusiastically in agreement. El machismo is strong among the men here, but now several of them have started taking care of the children while their wives are at work.

The money the women earn comes in handy. Some of the men have also learned to weave, although they only do it in the privacy of their homes. The women clearly see how their work at the weaving workshop is having a ripple effect.

Openness, information, and development projects lay the foundation for a good climate for cooperation.

Healthy scepticism

Peru is a rich country, yet over half of the population lives in poverty. People are accustomed to foreign companies enriching themselves at their expense.

In the past, mining companies and other businesses impacted the environment that provided livelihoods for many people.

As a result, Statkraft must expect to be met with scepticism and some strong local opposition. The strategy is to meet any resistance with transparency, information, and offers of cooperation on various projects that benefit the local population.

"First, we must explain to people that we create clean energy – we do not pollute," says Eche.

Working at the weaving chair
Poster with designer clothes

Map of PeruGallito Ciego

PRODUCTION: 193 GWh
CAPACITY: 34 MW

The hydropower plant Gallito Ciego is located 600 kilometres north of Lima in the La Libertad region of Peru. It was acquired by SN Power in 2003. The power plant is located downstream from the Gallito Ciego dam. In addition to power generation, the water in the reservoir is used to irrigate nearby farmland.

Sophisticated handicrafts

Eche has followed the women in the weaving workshop over several years, and has seen many changes during that period. Initially, the focus was on providing the women with training, then on perfecting their techniques and improving the quality of the products, and finally on making a business out of it.

Now the weaving workshop produces many products. Among other things, the women produce material used in clothing items that are exported. Designers can come with their drawings and place orders to have their creations produced, and the weavers also produce items that find their way into the stores in Lima and the tourist markets in Cusco.

"Sometimes we sit here all night to finish an order on time," they say.

The Jequetepeque Valley has a long tradition of handicrafts. Before the Spaniards conquered the country, the valley was part of the Inca empire, known for its rich culture. Archaeologists recently unearthed ceramic artefacts in the valley that were very well preserved, despite being around 3000 years old. The intricate graphic detail on the pots shows signs of highly skilled artisanship.

Before the weaving workshop was established, the women in Pay Pay used old and non-productive weaving methods.

Today, the weaving workshop utilises more modern techniques, and the women are able to deliver a variety of products, also fabric for advanced designer clothes to be sold in Lima.

Boy at school

Must give something back

Statkraft also has a joint project with the school in Pay Pay. However, Eche emphasizes that it is important not to take on tasks that are government responsibilities.

"Our contribution to the school is primarily to teach about energy and environmental protection," says Eche.

"Occasionally we also contribute and participate in local celebrations. We measure the results of all our projects to see what works and what doesn't. If there is no measurable effect, we find some other way to contribute."

"The way we benefit from these activities is that we avoid problems, or have fewer problems than we might otherwise have had," says Eche.

"We cannot operate our business here without giving something back."

Text: Ellen Stai
Photo: Jimmy Linus
Also published in Statkraft's magazine People & Power no. 1/2015

 

The weaving workshop has become an important gathering place, and an important income possibility, for women in the Pay Pay village.