No dream is too big
Improvement of opportunities and development of sustainable income for the communities in extreme poverty on the Andes of Perú.
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.
Inka Moss S.A.C.
Established (the solution has passed the previous stages and demonstrated success)
Annual budget in 2017 (USD)
Number of beneficiaries impacted so far
Headquarters location: Country
Headquarters location: City
Carretera Central Maquinhuayo S/N, Pueblo de Saúsa, Jauja - Junín - Perú
Location(s) of impact
Perú: Junín, Huancavelica, Huánuco, Cerro de Pasco.
At over 3,000 m.a.s.l., young women in extreme poverty find an opportunity.
Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?
Over 1 million people live on extreme poverty on rural communities at over 3,000 m.a.s.l. on the Andes of Perú. They lack opportunities for developing a sustainable income mainly because of the harsh geography of the region, something that affects mostly the young women of the communities.
Because of lack of knowledge, the settlers harm the environment by burning the humid forests to make room for traditional, low profit crops. This practice damages the ground and makes it barren for the future.
Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?
The sustainable production of white moss (sphagnum moss), product of previously unknown value by the communities, improves the settlers’ income by 25% and helps the environment to recover flora and fauna. It requires no specialized tools or training and allows them to improve their income without having to travel to other locations. Since the harvesting process is simple it can be done by anyone, regardless of age or gender.
White moss grows only on especial climatological conditions that are found on the Andes. It has high demand on Asia, Europe and North America, to where we are currently exporting, because of its unique properties as substratum for the horticulture, humidity retainer (decreases irrigation frequency in plant growth), natural antibacterial (chemical reduction) and retainer of heavy metals.
It is used in the growth of orchids, berries, hydroponic crops, and, because of its multiple characteristic, nowadays it is also used as a purifier filter for black waters.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work
45% of the sales value stays within the communities. This is divided between the harvesters, the transporters and the plant workers, all of which are part of rural communities.
From 2010 to 2016 we have worked with 37 communities (around 2,500 families), generating an income of USD 1,2K and improving their economy sustainably by 25%.
We have developed management plans for the moss, which add value to their lands, legalises their status as a community and integrates them to the economy. This gives them the chance to obtain better job opportunities and access to support programs from the state.
Through the development of management plans we have made inventories of the land and, therefore, have protected over 20,000 HA were the moss grows naturally, helping the environment and securing the sustainability of the income.
About 60% of the harvesters are women, which generates new opportunities for them that were not possible in the past.
Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?
Our initiative is sustainable by its own income and curretly represents 2% of the market share. Due to the high quality of our product, we have a demand that is higher than our production capacity, which is currently slowed down by the difficulty of the logistic for the supply and the lack of specialised equipment to process the moss.
To ensure and accelerate our growth we have received loans and grants which were used to reach new communities, improve our supply chain and acquire and upgrade machines. With these we aim to replicate our model on new areas, increase our market share and provide products with higher added value to our customers.
The structure of our current budget is:
- 65% sales revenue
- 30% loans
- 5% grants
Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?
We're the only moss processing company in the world that works hand to hand with vulnerable communities. We provide them with a sustainable opportunity to increase their income that, at the same time, actively protects the environment.
We sell a high quality product which, due to its natural environment and our own process, has superior properties compared to those of other countries in terms of length of the fibers, water absorption and capacity as antibacterial and heavy metal absorbent.
Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.
On one of the earliest explorations on the Andes looking for moss, several children joined our party and accompanied us as guides in their own land. I was deeply impressed, more than by the poverty I could see all around me, by the warmth, humility and community sense of solidarity that unites them in the shortage of money, something that I have never seen on the big cities.
In that moment, I understood that they’re only poor on resources, not values. Since then we started learning from them as much as they did from us and building a relationship of mutual respect and support that allowed us to make what used to seem as a very hard to achieve dream the reality we have nowadays.
Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?
Upon recommendation from others
Program Design Clarity: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details
Our model consists on the following steps:
- Identification and selection of harvesting areas based on moss volume and accessibility.
- First contact with the community in which we introduce the company, our goal and explain the characteristics of the moss and the benefits derived from harvesting it.
- Training of the potential harvesters on the proper harvesting methods and care of the moss to ensure high quality raw material which preserves the environment and ensures the sustainability.
- Development of a management plan to legalise the community, integrating it to the economy and adding value to the land.
- Beginning of the harvesting process.
Each community presents a different situation and, depending on it, this process can take from 3 months to 1 year. During the time it takes to transform a community into an official supplier of moss we are in constant communication with the communities. We take note of the issues they can be facing and add them to our base line. All these issues are discussed with them to see in which way we can help them overcome them. We do this to ensure that, aside from thedirect benefits of moss harvesting, the comunity can improve and fix all the problems it can be facing.
This ends up creating a special bond between the settlers and Inka Moss because they know that we see them not only as suppliers but as a invaluable part of our initiative and the main focus of our efforts.
We are interested in learning more about your initiative's broad impact on sustainable development. Please reply ONLY to the question(s) related to your above focus area.
Our initiative has no restrictions based on age, gender or income level. We welcome every adult who is willing to harvest to become part of our production line. The process is completely voluntary and the settlers are able to do it whenever they decide to. This means that our model is not invasive with their regular activities, something that allows them to occupy their free time between each traditional harvest with the moss and generate additional income in a former empty season.
This is most noticeable amongs young women. They are usually tasked with labours, like cattle care, that leave them with lots of free time. The lack of job opportunities forces them to occupy this time with activities which provide them little to no income. Now they can invest that time harvesting moss, improving the general economy of their households and empowering them by making them a key factor of the new opportunities that their families can now access.
Sphagnum moss in Perú grows only in the Andes and in the specific environment where these communities are located. Growing it artificially in another environment is too difficult and cost-ineffective to be a viable alternative. This, together with our commitment to purchase every harvested sack at a fair price and our focus on protecting the natural habitat of the moss, gives them the assurance that the additional income they can receive from moss harvesting is going to be sustainable in the future.
Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?
Inka Moss creates impact in the communities by providing them with the opportunity to generate additional income in a simple, sustainable and eco-friendly way. The management plans we help them obtain integrate them to the economy and give them access to support programs from the state.
We also make an impact on the environment by creating awareness about the value of sphagnum moss and the great importance of its care and protection and by supervising the harvesting process to ensure that there is no risk of harming the moss' natural habitat and growing period.
We also play an importante role for the Peruvian state because the inventory made for the management plans provides crucial information about the real value of the land.
We are always improving our production process to increase the quality of our final products and deliver to our clients something that not only is the best for their needs but that has true and proven social and environmental impact.
How is your initiative funded, now and over the next 5 years?
Inka Moss reached its break-even point in 2012, 2 years after it was created. Up until today, our sales cover all the costs of our operation. However, in order to increase the scope of our impact and the quality of our final products certain investments have to be done.
We have obtained and used loans and grants to travel to areas outside of our current action area, obtain management plans, expand our plant, purchase new equipment and upgrade the one we already have. We're self-sustaining but loans and grants have proved necessary to accelerate our expansion and the replication of our model in new areas.
How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the CSV Prize?
We want to make sphagnum moss and its multiple uses known to a wider audience, highlighting the impact it has on the lives of the most vulnerable communities of our country that work as harvesters.
We would use various platforms, specially social media, to tell the story of effort and improvement through moss harvesting of the communities. This would not only benefit them but it would create awareness of the amazing resources nature puts to our disposal and the need to take proper care of them.
We want other social enterprises to see us as an example that a model which integrates vulnerable populations and state organizations is viable and can be succesful in terms of commercial achievements and social and environmental impact.
How will you leverage an investment from Nestle to expand the impact of your work?
Our plan is to use the investment to expand our scope of impact amongs the communities of the Andes. We want to reach further away places were we know there are vulnerable populations which could benefit greatly from our initiative. The investment would be used for exploration, training, legalization and implementation of new supply routes.
We're currently working on developing our own moss based water filter, a concept that is already being used in other countries with possitive results. We will use this filter to provide clean water to those in need and to commercialize a chemical-free alternative to the retail market. Nestlé's investment would also be used to further improve our current model and achieve its highest potential.
Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact? What’s the projected impact for the coming years? Are you planning to expand your programme into new locations? On what assumptions do you build your scale-up plans?
We have established the following strategies to ensure the scaling of our impact and growth of the company by 2021:
- Improve our supply line by increasing the amount of harvesting communities and providing them with support to overcome their internal issues, creating a bond beyond the commercial aspect.
- Improving the production process and increasing the production.
- Diversify our product portfolio by taking advantage of the moss' properties through new presentations.
- Strengthen our team and its skills through specialised training.
- Enhance our financial capacity by improving our fundings management, both internal and external.
Sphagnum moss grows naturally all along the Andes of Perú. Our plans for the future are focused on expanding our scope to replicate our model in more communities and develop new and innovative products, such as water filters, that take advantage of our moss' natural properties to ensure our entry to the retail market.
Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, number of full-time vs. part-time staff, board members, etc.)? How will this team evolve as your initiative grows?
Our team is composed by a director board of 4 members with years of experience in commercial strategies and impact generation, a group of engineers who are specialist on sphagnum moss and have extensive knowledge of its uses and properties, almost 20 plant workers trained on the handling and proper production of moss, young professionals which provide innovative ideas and new perspectives and a CEO who is also the company's founder and main gear.
We have alliances with Peruvian universities to study the moss and further increase our knowledge of its properties and uses and support of state institutions to ensure the moss' preservation and the replication of our model. Once we reach further zones we'll integrate people from the area to our team so they can supervise the harvesting.
Awards: What awards or honors has the initiative received?
- BID Network: Best business plan
- InCapital: Best business model
- Innóvate: Alternative uses for moss
- Innóvate: Moss expansion and improvement of fiber's quality
- PromPerú: Marca Perú
- B Corp: B Corp Certification
- Hello Tomorrow Perú: Best solution for water purification (Moss water filter)
Organizational leadership: How are you influencing your field of work in the present?
The concept of a social entrepreneurship is not yet widely recognized in our country but in recent years there has been an increase on the amount of people who decide to start one and the organizations that are willing to support them.
Having 7 years in the market, Inka Moss is one of the oldest and most recognizable social entrepreneurships in Perú. Since the begining, our model has properly integrated rural communities, the state and our company with positive results, making us proof that a social entrepreneurship can be commercially successful and sustainable while, at the same time, generate a proven and substantial social and environmental impact.
Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend the Ashoka Impact Boot camp and Creating Shared Value Prize Live Pitch Event at the World Water Forum 13-16 March 2018
Yes, I am available to attend the events on 13-16 March 2018