The Peruvian NGO Cusichaca Andina recently won a grant from the World Bank to promote the revival of ancient Andean crops, including quinoa, amaranth, and indigenous varieties of potatoes and squashes. The indigenous crops, in danger of disappearing due to the increasing dominance of corporate hybrids, are thought to be more resilient and better adapted to the harsh local environment—making them potentially strategic in adapting to the challenges of global climate change. Public Radio International’s The World reported Sept. 7: “[C]limate change is hitting the high Andes hard. Temperature and precipitation swings are becoming more extreme, the glaciers are shrinking fast, and a tough place to farm is becoming even tougher. So to help them deal with an uncertain future, residents are looking back in time—to before the arrival of Europeans.”
A small, pink potato known as the huaña is one crop which is being brought back—with a bitter taste, requiring much work to make them palatable. But, unlike the more popular varieties, huañas can be stored for two or three years—more than four times as long as most other potatoes—and are highly resistant to frost, hail, extreme rain and drought. Cusichaca Andina is also attempting to bring back agricultural terraces that were widespread in the Inca era, but fell into disuse after the Spanish conquest. Old terraces are being revived and new ones built to arrest erosion and conserve water.
Cusichaca Andina has 10 pilot projects in remote peasant communities throughout the Altiplano and south-central Andean cordilleras—two in Peru‘s Ayacucho region, two in Cuzco, two in Arequipa, and four in Bolivia‘s La Paz department.
See our last post on the climate crisis in the Andes.