Spotlight on OPIC Impact Award winners: American Wool & Cashmere
OPIC seeks to support projects that will serve as foundations for sustained economic growth and one of the key ways this is accomplished is by creating opportunity for people in emerging markets. American Wool & Cashmere, which earlier this month won the 2016 OPIC Impact Award in the development impact category, has created opportunity for people in a remote region of western Afghanistan by building a supply chain for wool and cashmere produced in the area.
American Wool & Cashmere of Beltsville, Maryland, is a U.S. small business that was formed by an Afghan American, Nesar Nusraty, to establish a reliable system for Afghan’s small herders to sell their goods to major markets. Afghanistan’s Herat produces significant amounts of cashmere goat wool but local cashmere aggregators are often constrained by lack of liquidity in the time between purchasing from small farm producers and final sale to foreign buyers who process the cashmere for sale in the world market.
When Nusraty heard about these challenges from an Afghan businessman in Washington D.C., he began traveling around the world to study the market. Nusraty learned that it often took up to 24 months from the time the cashmere wool is sheared until the local suppliers received payment, forcing many goat farmers to slaughter the animals to provide for their families. In 1989, Nusraty formed American Wool & Cashmere to address these challenges and in subsequent years he used OPIC financing to build a delivery infrastructure to move the raw cashmere to processing facilities in Europe and Asia for export and distribution worldwide. This more efficient network helped the region’s herders earn steady income, and this has in turn created employment for about 1,500 people who work sorting and de-hairing wool.
During the recent OPIC Impact Awards for excellence in development, American Wool & Cashmere Vice President Anisa Nusraty, spoke about the ways OPIC had supported the business.