Community Empowerment

Community is Critical for Conservation Success

The Andes in northern Peru are home to many marginalized, rural communities with limited opportunities to thrive.  These communities lack access to quality education, health care, and economic opportunities, and may rely heavily on the natural environment to meet their needs through agriculture, cattle grazing or hunting. These factors contribute to a cycle of poverty and unsustainable land use.  Coupled with the close proximity of communities to critically endangered biodiversity or habitat areas, the likelihood of human-wildlife conflict and habitat loss will continue to increase.  

Providing communities with conservation education and training, and alternative, sustainable economic opportunities reduces human pressure on wildlife and habitats.  Empowered communities play a direct role in local conservation decisions and management.

We partner with communities who own land with priority spectacled bear habitat and commit it to a private protected area.  Simultaneously, we establish a new chapter of our Felti Program, which is really the driver of habitat protection. Participation in our Felti Program incentivizes conservation by providing an alternative livelihood and income for local women that is unrelated to natural resource use.  After understanding their challenges and interests, we adapt our Forest Guardians program to deliver community-specific conservation education and training.  

Our Felti Program

We can partner with more communities, employ and empower more local women and protect more spectacled bear habitat by selling more Feltis.

Our Felti program, started in 2010, involves the production of small, hand-crafted, woolen animals using a method called dry-needle felting.  The program is a vital component of our work and results in a direct economic benefit for the communities we partner with on creating protected areas.  Felti incentivizes conservation and builds trust and strong relationships between SBC and local people. 

Our Felti artisans are women from rural and indigenous communities. They become empowered by earning a fair and competitive wage, with many participants earning an income for the first time in their lives.    By providing an alternative livelihood that isn’t related to natural resource extraction, human pressure on prime spectacled bear habitat from activities like agriculture and poaching is decreased.

How Feltis are Made

Our Feltis are 100% sheep’s wool, most of which is sourced locally in Peru. The wool is washed and run through a carding machine, which brushes the wool fibers in the same direction to create roving. The roving wool is rolled into a ball and repeatedly poked with a fine barbed felting needle. Tiny scales on the wool fibers lock together with each poke and the wool becomes very dense, allowing the creation of a firm shape. Additional wool is added to create different shapes and details for each sculpture.

Since 2010 more than 100 women have been engaged and trained to make Feltis.  Our original Felti program in Batán Grande has grown to a employ a full-time coordinator, three instructors and a quality control manager. In 2018 we launched a second program in Tucto, a high elevation indigenous village, and produced 15,000 Feltis (our highest production to date).

Start your Felti Collection!

Great as gifts, toys, home décor and Christmas ornaments


Be a Felti Ambassador

Calling all passionate and innovative retailers!

We would love to have you as a retail partner. We can supply wholesale orders anywhere in North America.
We may even be able to fashion new animals to meet your interests. 

Take it to the streets! 

Is there a market or store in your community that’s the perfect spot to sell our Feltis? We would love your support to engage new vendors.

Let’s get busy this Christmas! 

We are always looking for support to help us sell Feltis at local Christmas markets. 

Have another idea? 

We would love to hear your ideas on how to expand our Felti program!


Our Forest Guardian Program

We believe that engaging communities to develop environmental awareness and stewardship is key to protecting (and reconnecting) habitats.   Our Forest Guardians program is designed to deliver education, training and conservation support to communities that work with SBC to convert their communal lands to private protected areas.  The goal is to change behaviors and local perceptions about conservation by implementing projects that support a shift away from unsustainable practices.  Some of our initiatives Include:

Developing a School Curriculum

We collaborated with the San Diego Zoo to develop a locally-relevant school curriculum that builds ecological literacy and cultural knowledge.  We also deliver presentations on environmental awareness and our research findings on the local ecosystem.  More than 1,000 children have participated in our conservation-based education and we have reached over 6,000 adults through conservation outreach.

Wildfire Response Training

Following a human-induced wildfire in 2016 that destroyed 30,000 acres of pristine montane-páramo spectacled bear habitat, we realized there was little local infrastructure in place to respond to fire events.  We collaborated with the local fire brigade to equip and educate the local communities in wildfire prevention and response.

Awareness on Agricultural Techniques 

We provide education to community leaders on the negative environmental impact of clearing forested land, planting non-native tree species and starting wildfires.

Alternative Cooking Practices 

Our research has established a direct correlation between spectacled bear survival and the availability of sapote fruit, a key food source, in the dry equatorial forest.  Sapote trees are often cleared for firewood, so we developed a solution to change wood gathering practices.  We offered communities alternative cooking methods by providing more fuel-efficient stoves to reduce reliance on firewood.

Domestic Animal Rescue  

We rehabilitate and care for rescued horse, mules and donkeys at our Conservation Center in Batán Grande.  This provides local residents with an opportunity to connect with the animals, helping to establish a link between domestic animals and conservation efforts to protect local wildlife. 



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