The Lake Titicaca region, crossing southern Peru and northern Bolivia, is recognized as the heartland of the original potato, and the Andean Potato Park enables in situ conservation of potato genetic diversity. Preserving the genetic diversity of potatoes is not only crucial for communities in this region, enabling them to maintain resilience to climate change; it is essential for global food security.
The Potato Park is a reserve of more than 15,000 hectares located in the Andean region of Cusco, Peru. Affiliated with The International Network of Mountain Indigenous People (INMIP), it is the largest potato biodiversity hotspot in the world. At the Potato Park, a collective of six Quechua communities conserve more than 1365 varieties of wild and cultivated potatoes, a wonderful example of territorial management by Indigenous peoples.
The International Network for Mountain Indigenous Peoples (INMIP) comprises ten participating countries: Bhutan, China, India, Kyrgyzstan, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Taiwan, Tajikistan, and Thailand. The network works to implement Biocultural Heritage Territories in these regions, and to share cross-cultural knowledge on climate change adaptation and the development of innovations that support resilience. INMIP is an important instrument for supporting the implementation of local, national and international climate change programs and policies, and strengthening sustainable management practices in mountain territories.
Respect, solidarity and reciprocity are paramount in the community. During the COVID-19 lockdown, peasants from the Potato Park shared their crops and their foods with the people who were stuck in the streets of Cusco. The organization has a guiding motto: “If we practice solidarity and we respect the land, we will have plenty of food for everyone.”
Quechua communities support their elders and youth, and value the importance of intergenerational knowledge exchange.
Potato is among the top five major crops of the world. As the guardians of important potato agrobiodiversity, INMIP and the communities at the Potato Park provide a "free service" to humanity by practicing cultivation as a way of life. The Quechua people use their traditional knowledge to maintain the agrobiodiversity which in turn sustains their culture. Potatoes are food, medicine, and cultural symbols.
The logic and values behind Andean cosmology applies to every aspect of work in the Potato Park. For the communities involved, the harmony between humans and their landscape is sacred. They believe there must be a balance between what we take and what we give back to the land. This is what creates Sumak Kawsay (or “Good Living”).
The Agroecology Fund is supporting the INMIP network and its partners, the Potato Park and Asociación ANDES, to promote a “food neighborhood” approach to food and nutritional security, agricultural production and environmental sustainability. To forge a global network of diverse food neighborhoods, they will conduct biocultural knowledge exchanges, food celebrations, and training.
The Potato Park’s micro-enterprise and agrotourism initiatives help secure livelihoods for the youth, with proceeds benefitting a communal fund that supports the schools, the elders, or any other necessities of the communities. There is a community seed bank, a seed multiplication center, and greenhouses. The communities who steward the area also cultivate more than 52 corn varieties, as well as other traditional produce such as quinoa, and 3 important tuber varietals -- olluco, oca, and mashua.
In a center of crop origin and diversity, the Potato Park is a remarkable example of how advocating for food sovereignty through agroecology can create sustainable livelihoods, build collective knowledge about resilient land management practices, and empower Indigenous peoples to exercise their biocultural rights.