I had a really fascinating trip down to the coast of Ecuador this week to meet the community who supply the Carludovia Palmata fibre (also known as paja toquilla) for our Panama Hats.

Mark (our Marketing Manager & my husband) and Sara (our Quality Manager) drove to a small community of 3000 people about 3 hours south of Manta and then it was an hour off road up into the mountains to reach the plantations of the paja. The community has been working hard to protect their area of land and to increase sustainability and biodiversity in the area. They have protected an area of 5600 hectares and are now seeing a lot more birds and animals in the area such as toucans, armadillos and monkeys. The plants also help to improve the air quality and the producers were keen to emphasise that the work they are doing is providing oxygen for the world. They are hoping to make the area a Patrimonio Cultural in the future.

A new paja toquilla palm can't be harvested for 3 years as it needs to produce runners and baby plants before it can be harvested. After this period, the paja can be harvested every 30 days as it is a very fast growing plant and takes just a month to reach full height (around 12 feet) again. The paja is grown in 100% organic conditions and so we should look into the possibility of organic certification for the fibre in the future.

During our walk through the forest, we saw this huge tarantula and so we definitely stepped a lot more carefully after that!

It was so encouraging to meet the producers of paja for Pachacuti's Panama Hats and to be able to document the sustainability of the production process. Pachacuti has been certified by the WFTO against the Sustainable Fair Trade Management System and we really can say that Pachacuti's Panama Hats are not only sustainable but are actually bringing about positive environmental impact within the community.