Credit: Agroecology Fund

Preserving Peru’s Biocultural Heritage through the Quechua-led Andean Potato Park

Organization International Network for Mountain Indigenous Peoples
Realm Southern America

The Project Marketplace is organized by the major terrestrial realms divided into 14 biogeographical regions – N. America, Subarctic America, C. America, S. America, Afrotropics, Indomalaya, Australasia, Oceania, Antarctica, and the Palearctic realm, which coincides with Eurasia and is divided into Subarctic, Western, Central, Eastern, and Southern regions.

Project Type Regenerative Agriculture

There are five main project categories: Energy Transition focuses on renewable energy access and energy efficiency. Nature Conservation includes wildlife habitat protection and ecosystem restoration, as well as indigenous land rights. Regenerative Agriculture supports farmers, ranchers and community agriculture. Climate Change covers global science efforts, climate adaptation, and social justice work.

Status Open

Open indicates any project that needs core programmatic funding.

Funding Level $$

$$ indicates a project with a funding need between $50,000-$250,000.

Timeframe Ongoing

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 implementation of local, national and international climate change programs and policies, and to strengthen sustainable management practices in mountain territories.

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 potatoes (both wild and cultivated), a wonderful example of territorial management by Indigenous peoples. 

Credit: Agroecology Fund

Peru is the center of origin of the potato (along with Bolivia and Chiloe Island in Chile); the Potato Park thus enables in situ conservation of potato genetic diversity. Preserving the genetic diversity of potatoes is crucial for communities in this region to maintain resilience to climate change; but it is also essential for global food security. Potato is among the top five major crops of the world. By being the guardians of this important agrobiodiversity, INMIP and the communities at the Potato Park provide a "free service" to all of humanity. 

For the Quechua people, cultivating is a way of life. They use their tradition and knowledge to maintain agrobiodiversity, which in turn sustains their culture. Potatoes are food, medicine, and cultural symbols.The logic and values of the Andean cosmovision applies to every aspect of their work in the Potato Park. For these communities, 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 (Buen vivir, Good Living). 

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. “If we practice solidarity and we respect the land, we will have plenty of food for everyone,” said Ricardina Pacco, a traditional seeds expert. 

Credit: Agroecology Fund

The Agroecology Fund is supporting 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 trainings.

Quechua communities support their elders and youth, and value the importance of intergenerational knowledge exchange. “Mothers and grandmothers teach children about seeds, animals, and medicinal plants, and involve them in different activities in the park. They want to make sure that the young people can remain in the rural areas and not seek to migrate towards the cities,” said Ricardina. 

The Potato Park’s micro-enterprise and agrotourism initiatives help secure livelihoods for the youth; proceeds go towards a communal fund which supports the schools, the elders, or any other necessities of the communities. There is a community seed bank, a seed multiplication center, and greenhouses, which allow for in situ preservation. The communities who steward the area also cultivate more than 52 corn varieties, as well as other traditional produce such as quinoa, and olluco, oca, and mashua (tuber varieties). They advocate for food sovereignty, and resist exploitative practices such as mining and biopiracy -- important issues in the Andean region. The Potato Park is an example of the fight to achieve food sovereignty through agroecology, collective knowledge and holistic management of the land, and the exercising of Indigenous peoples’ biocultural rights, in a center of crop origin and diversity. 

Until Covid made a large international gathering impossible, the Potato Park was due to host a 2020 learning exchange for INMIP affiliates, all anxious to learn from the Potato Park experience. That rich sharing of experience will resume when it is safe to do so.

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