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Inka moss

Inka Moss, Sphagnum moss, Peru (buyer)

At 3,200 metres above sea level, the Andean highlands are one of the most challenging terrains to farm. Income from small-scale farming is little and unpredictable, but the women there have found an opportunity in wild moss.

Sphagnum moss is vital for the development of orchids, which is a growing industry here in the UK, as well as the USA, France, Taiwan, Japan, China, Thailand, Hawaii, and Singapore. Founded in 2010, Inka Moss helps farmers in the highlands of Peru to benefit from this growing market. Sphagnum moss is a valuable commodity, as it acts as a natural anti-bactericide, humidity collector and absorbs heavy metals; characteristics that make it ideal for various crops, which require high amounts of moisture, especially orchids.

Marco Piñatelli, Founder and General Manager said:

“The loan has also given us the opportunity to include more remote communities within our supply chain.”

PERUVIAN MOSS IS A GROWING INDUSTRY

Inka Moss achieved Fairtrade certification in 2016 and has recently been awarded the title of a B Corporation. To be referred to as a B Corp, an organisation must meet high environmental and social impact standards, as well as showing public transparency. 

Marco Piñatelli, Founder and General Manager said: “This year, we are focused on improving our production process. We ask farmers to transport their moss to our processing plant in Jauja town while it is still wet, where our specialised machinery helps maintain optimum quality. The moss is placed carefully on drying platforms before being cleaned of any impurities, and arranged and packed according to the fibre size specified by the client in question. We then send it to Callao Port in Lima for shipping.

“We approached Shared Interest for finance so that we can pay the farmers for their moss on delivery to our factory. To meet with demand, we also need to acquire larger stock levels and provide buyers with larger size bags depending on their specifications. 

“The loan has also given us the opportunity to include more remote communities within our supply chain.” 

Marco concluded: “We know this alliance is going to keep going for the following years because there are many more goals to achieve. Since becoming a B Corp, our commitment is not only financial but social and environmental, a characteristic that we have in common with Shared Interest, making them the best organisation we could ask for help to reach all our goals.”

Impact of Covid-19

Speaking in July 2020, Regional Manager for Latin America, Paul Sablich said: “When the quarantine started in Peru, Inka Moss suspended operations completely. Once they received authorisation from the Ministry of Production, and subsequently received their transit permit, they began working closely with local communities to co-ordinate safe collection of moss. They carried out extensive research and consultation into how to manage this intricate process in a way that is Covid-secure. So far, Inka Moss has invested almost 3,000 US Dollars, into preventative measures, which include personal protective equipment for communities. 

“Out of the 22 communities Inka Moss supports, six have entry protocols in place and five more are working on them. Community patrols monitor entry of people and vehicles into these areas. Some communities have, however, preferred to wait a little longer as there is fear of spreading the virus. Inka Moss remains in close contact with them, and has assured harvesters that once protocols are in place, they will be able to collect the moss. 

“It has been a challenging time for Inka Moss, as their priorities remain in protecting the growth of the moss, as well as ensuring the safety of harvesters during the pandemic. When lockdown started, they has just enough moss to keep production running. In the meantime, the government issued specific regulations for the prevention and control of Covid-19 in remote communities.” 

As Inka Moss’ Internal Consultant Juanjo Ladines Moya explains: “Understandably, harvesters are very concerned about their income. The winter frost season has started and is causing havoc in their potato plantations. Inka Moss is looking for ways to support them with this.”

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