The Inter Press Service’s Fabiola Ortiz reports on how climate change in the Peruvian Andes is threatening the potato.
In the Parque de la Papa, which is at an altitude of up to 4,500 metres and covers 9,200 hectares, 6,000 indigenous villagers from five communities – Amaru, Chawaytire, Pampallaqta, Paru Paru and Sacaca – are preserving potatoes and biodiversity, along with their spiritual rites and traditional farming techniques.
The Parque de la Papa, a mosaic of fields that hold the greatest diversity of potatoes in the world, 1,460 varieties, was created in 2002 with the support of the Asociación Andes.
This protected area in the Sacred Valley of the Incas is surrounded by lofty peaks known as ‘Apus’ or divine guardians of life, which until recently were snow-capped year-round.
“People are finally waking up to the problem of climate change. They’re starting to think about the future of life, the future of the family. What will the weather be like? Will we have food?” 50-year-old community leader Lino Mamani, one of the ‘papa arariwa’ – potato guardians, in Quechua – told IPS.
He said that whoever is sceptical about climate change can come to the Peruvian Andes to see that it’s real. “Pachamama [mother earth, in Quechua] is nervous about what we are doing to her. All of the crops are moving up the mountains, to higher and higher ground, and they will do so until it’s too high to grow,” he said.
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To prevent crop damage, over the last 30 years farmers have increased the altitude at which they plant potatoes by more than 1,000 metres, said Mamani. That information was confirmed by the Asociación Andes and by researchers at the International Potato Centre (CIP), based in Lima.