Learning About Alpacas: The Most Sustainable Livestock on the Planet?
I believe that transparency is key and have wanted for a while to give you a clear overview of what we ourselves here at Inkari implement every day to create a more sustainable world. During the 'Creating Water'-project I came across companies using marketing-related greenwashing (= misleading claims on the environmental benefits of diverse facets of a company). I want to educate our customers on all the real benefits of Alpaca Wool and steer away from this greenwashing. The Inkari journey entails our dedication to the planet, the people we serve, and our beautiful alpacas, which I'd love to share with you!
Our journey starts in the Andean Highlands where alpacas roam freely and prosper, even in these harsh climates. It is an animal with a very low environmental impact due to various special traits and I have summed up some of their key characteristics and benefits for an easy read.
Alpaca hooves are softly padded with small cushions, which reduce the damaging soil compression effect greatly. Fields of grass are tread upon, nevertheless remain undamaged, not leading to infertility of ecosystems. Soils that are rich in (earth) fluffiness and beneficial creatures add to the health of the ground. Increased soil fertility results in more water retainment and ultimately, well-nourished alpacas. It’s a win-win for both alpacas and their environment!
No sleeping beauty, but a fluffy plucking beauty! Alpaca mouths lack teeth in their upper palette and affect the way they eat, which differentiates them from other fiber producing animals. An alpaca plucks grass; other wooly animals distress roots and some even rip entire clumps of grass out of the soil. Leaving in the roots results in less soil erosion and depletion, both extremely important for the health of land.
In addition, alpaca water usage is far less than similar fiber-producing animals. Evolving in extreme harsh Andean climates where water is only consistently available in some lower areas has led to a very efficient conversion rate of water. Alpacas are therefore incredibly interesting livestock in a society where water becomes scarcer by the day. Water grabbing (= where powerful actors take control of valuable water resources for their own benefits) is known to occur often in South America and derives small communities from water. Alpacas will make for a logical choice when water is becoming more and more absent. Research for yourself the consequences of water grabbing to see how socially devastating it can be.
Finally, alpacas nourish on a variety of plants, including many native species. There is no need to plant mono crops and disturb natural vegetation by adding fertilizers needed to grow such crops. Dependency on mono-agriculture increases the proneness to devastating diseases and the probability of stocks, and therefore livestock food, collapsing. Simply requiring less resources to thrive, while obtaining these resources with less lasting natural impact, is what sets alpacas apart from other wooly animals. Alpacas are the greenest choice and produce the greenest alpaca fibers, that’s why we love them!
Alpaca Farming and Processing
The farming process starts with the shearing process every Spring. Each 12-16 months an alpaca gets shorn to yield its wool production; one well-bred alpaca produces about 4-5 sweaters every year. Read more about their yield and more on Alpaca Wool. This wool production is the primary source of income for most small alpaca farmers, which results in the (financial) desire to make use of the alpacas for the entirety of their lifespan (15-20 years). Alpacas which die a natural death are used completely in the harsh Andean Highlands.
Both wool and leather are processed and nothing is wasted. The fact that alpacas from our producers are not produced for leather only is what sets these animals apart from ‘mainstream leather production’, where the end product (leather) is more valuable than the incremental yields and its profits (shorn alpaca wool).
We strongly believe in the more responsible choice by choosing for alpaca wool and supporting the local alpaca farmers who provide for their families. Our partners are carefully selected on their animal-friendly methods and high quality alpaca wool. Sustainable methods entail chemical-free production as well. As you might have read on Alpaca Wool, Alpaca Wool lacks lanolin and therefore the need to use heavy chemical-laden soaps to scour the lanolin from the alpaca fleece. Environmentally friendly soaps can easily be used without damaging or harming the environment. Natural qualities aside, you’re probably wondering about the people and the ways in which these animals provide jobs and well-being for many artisan workers?
Throughout the past 6 years, we have come into contact with all sorts of Peruvians from a variety of different social classes, geographic regions, and cultural backgrounds. From extreme poverty to those that enjoyed great wealth, all have taught us the value of local traditions and methods to process the alpaca wool. Inkari attempts to create value for the artisan workers by selecting only partners that work with or are part of these less fortunate population groups. In addition, creating jobs in economically weak areas is how we attempt to provide monetary support on a community-wide level.
This support stems back to our Creating Water Foundation Project in which communities from slums cooperated and created a green oasis in the midst of an extremely dry area. Following these cooperative and community-reinforcing values, we work together with local businesses and apply a similar open and enthusiastic way of cooperating with every one we work with in Peru. Increasing their and our happiness, increasing your happiness, increasing all happiness; that’s what feeling I get from alpacas and why I want to share these incredible lessons with the world so badly!
Alpacas are cute animals, but do not let this cuteness fool you and underestimate them. Both ecologically and socially these animals are astonishing and unparalleled. The journey of Inkari is to make you and the world around you aware of this green alternative to the more mainstream fibers. We’ll be sharing our alpaca love with you as long as we can, and we hope you do the same with your friends!Like what you’ve read? Then you’re definitely going to like what you see!