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welcome to cooperativa payun matru

The people organized themselves into a cooperative to improve their lives

In southern Argentina in the foothills of the Andes there is a public nature reserve the size of Rhode Island called Reserva la Payunia. The Reserve is named after an extinct volcano - Payun Matru.  About 150 people live in the Reserve scattered widely in small family groups. The people make their living as subsistence goat herders and they live on less than $2 per day. There are no paved roads in the Reserve, nor schools or hospitals. There are no telephones and there is no electricity. The landscape is windswept, arid and desolate.

shearing guanacos

While Reserva la Payunia is lacking in traditional natural resources, it does have a healthy population of wild guanacos.  The guanaco is a relative of the vicuña, llama and alpaca.  Guanacos grow dense coats of incredibly fine and luxurious wool to protect them against the winter climate of the Reserve which is located 5000 feet above sea level. 

About 7 years ago the people of the Reserve organized themselves into a cooperative called Cooperativa la Payunia and decided to try and improve the condition of their lives.  They envisioned a project based on sustainable harvest of the wool from the guanaco.  To that end they learned how to trap the guanacos in an immense corral, how to shear them and then let them free, unharmed.   They also had to learn how to clean the wool and spin it into yarn for export.  Finally, they learned how to prove that their project was sustainable and caused no harm to the animals. 


Together, we flourish.

Improving lives through sustainable local industry as well as conserving the land and the wild guanacos — the Cooperativa truly is more than the sum of its parts. Read about the people, the land, the guanacos and the organizations that helped turn an idea into a future.

round-up video

Watch a video of the guanaco round-up and shearing operations (3.5 minutes).

Watch Now

Watch the video