The Ayni Project

Ayni (eye-e-knee): In Quechua, the Indigenous language spoken in the highlands of Peru, ayni refers to the idea of cooperation and reciprocation between community members.


Textile weaving plays a very important role in Peruvian culture and history and brings income to many of the communities in the Sacred Valley.  However, the most remote of these communities continue to struggle with poverty largely as a result of limited access to economic opportunities.


Currently, multiple NGOs in the Sacred Valley are partnering with communities of artisan weavers, working to enhance their skills as well as improve their access to markets; however, limited programs exist that emphasize the need for financial literacy, education, and best practices for responsible saving.  Such an understanding of financial management practices is essential for communities introduced to new markets or additional revenue streams where no formal financial institutions exist, so that community members may make the most of their income and future investments.

Community savings (also called “communal savings” programs or “micro savings” programs) are informal networks of individuals who pool together financial resources based on agreed-upon terms and conditions.  Once established, the networks are entirely self managed, and as a result often have the secondary effect of building trust and collaboration between group members.  Such programs have emerged primarily over the past decade in rural, developing communities across the globe and offer a promising solution to what foreign aid and micro lending often leave behind.  By reducing dependence on donations or repaying interest charges, savings programs create long-term economic security.

Goals, Objectives, Solutions

During the summer of 2011, my colleague and I had the opportunity to assess the readiness and interest level of a group of 15 weavers from Choqueconcha to engage in a community savings program.   Based on Human Centered Design by IDEO, we created a tool suite and conducted an important facilitation to gain insight and find the story of the Wiñay Warm weaving group.  We are currently developing a community savings program and activities guide that will one day be replicated and scaled to other communities in the region.

The solution at which we aim in undertaking these goals and objectives is to enhance financial self-sufficiency through developing and promoting community savings as an effective, sustainable means to economic empowerment for communities in the Sacred Valley.

This is only a segment of our initial project report.  For more information on methods, objective, and outcomes, please visit The Ayni Project website.

The Ayni Project Process