Radio-interview with Minka Zeilstra of Blue Butterfly Naturals

Minka Zeilstra is Dutch importer and happy owner of the webshop Blue Butterfly Naturals. This sympathetic entrepreneur sells natural textile products and accessories of the Peruvian Andes and jungle in Europe. As radio-commentator at Radioprogram AMIGOS (directed by Lida Poldervaart Ramirez) I was curious to know about her business experience, her mission and future goals. Here below the interview.

Angélica: “How was your company born? Do you have a specific mission?”

Minka: “In 2010 I made a great trip around Chile, Bolivia and Peru. This trip opened a whole new world for me. I saw the most beautiful mountains in the world, the Andes. I saw the alpacas in Bolivia and Peru, and the unique wool products the people made by hand. The local people are very poor but they live a dignified life. I was touched by that. Once back in the Netherlands I realized there should be a market for alpaca wool and these beautiful handmade products. So I started Blue Butterfly Naturals with the mission to buy directly from these manufacturers so that they would benefit themselves the most. It is very important to me that the local craftsmen benefit and that they are not abused as happens regularly. For example there have been Australian and Chinese companies in Peru importing the alpacas for purely commercial motives.”

Angélica: “What are your best selling products? And what are your future plans?”

Minka: “Until last year socks and gloves of alpaca wool were favorites. Oh, and the baby hats. Other popular products are the alpaca shoes and the alpaca coat. But it is not easy to keep my business affordable due to import tariffs.
Furthermore, due to another busy job, I do not always have enough time to dedicate myself sufficiently to my company. For the future I want a more serious website that works better. I would also like to offer my products in other European countries. I am thinking of Norway and Germany. In recent years I have had sufficient clients from Belgium. The Dutch people still do not really know how to value products made by hand with Alpaca wool. They are not always willing to pay the price it deserves. In addition to alpaca wool products, I want to develop more hand-woven bags. With natural dyed textiles, so there are no chemicals applied.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Angélica: “How do you see sustainability in the textile sector in Peru? How do you try to discern yourself as a company in that aspect?”

Minka: “I think, without really realizing it, the Peruvians have a fairly sustainable textile production, because it is usually natural. But to really create a sustainable label for the export market it is more complicated, because a lot of intermediaries enter the market.

Concerning my own business activities, for the bags I sell, I work together with a foundation in Peru that allows me to buy directly from the weavers. They have the same goal: they only use natural raw materials and wool dyed with natural means, and also handmade. So there is no residual water or processed plastic.
For my alpaca products I work together with individual craftsmen/women and I always ask them to use pure wool or hair. You have to explain it to them because sometimes they do not care about or understand the importance of having pure wool.”

NGO AMPA: connecting the Peruvian gastronomy with sustainable use of natural resources of the Amazon forests.

Last week I had the honor to interview the Peruvian Miguel Tang Tuesta, Director Green Economy of the foundation AMPA Peru, who was visiting the Netherlands. See below video in Spanish:

Just recently Miguel has been appointed as Amazon Embassador of the Province of Maynas for his great work in the area of biotrade, investigation and conservation of biodiversity of the Peruvian Amazon.

miguel tang tuesta - embajador amazónico
Miguel Tang Tuesta- Amazon Embassador of the Province of Maynas, Peru & Director Green Economy of the foundation AMPA PERU

The foundation AMPA Peru won the very prestigious Green Latinamerican Award in September 2017 with their project “Gastronomy and Conservation”. This award can be won for important projects in the area of protection of biodiversity.

FB_IMG_1525027616775.jpg
Miguel Tang Tuesta and Karina Pinasco of AMPA PERU receive the Green Latinamerican Award 2017

In the interview Miguel very passionately mentioned how in this project the excellent Peruvian top cuisine is connected to sustainably derived natural ingredients from tropical forests from the Peruvian Amazon region. This generates income and development for the indigenous communities who manage the tropical forest. AMPA PERU teaches and has taught the communities to make sustainable use of the natural resources of the forest, without causing any deforestation; thus conserving the forest and its natural resources. Examples of these natural resources are: the “aguaje”, coconuts, mushrooms, and many other resources.

Adding natural ingredients from the Amazon forest to menus of Peruvian topchefs also enables innovation in the Peruvian cuisine. So the project Gastronomy and Conservation promotes a sustainable cuisine.

You can also find the interview with subtitles on YouTube. Click in the following link: Interview with Miguel Tang Tuesta