Peru has become increasingly impacted by climate change over recent years, notably affecting Peru’s Sacred Valley of the Incas – home to the village of Huaran. Warming temperatures has resulted in a longer dry period generating more volatile farming yields in communities who rely on agriculture for livelihoods and survival. A secondary concern is the shift to industrial agriculture in pursuit of generating income through cash crops, not only is this having a devastating impact on the loss of decades of local knowledge on organic farming, the land is becoming depleted at the expense of the health and wellbeing of Peruvian communities. As systems of traditional food and knowledge have become degraded through development practices, highland communities have lost previous systems of exchange with expat communities which was crucial for achieving dietary diversity and quality in Andean highland communities. In addition, children in highland communities are facing malnutrition – over 70% of children are anaemic. Unfortunately, these issues are deepened by discrimination and a political system with visible racism.
The organisations of Casita Huaran and CALOR aim to revitalise and strengthen communities’ cultural roots and livelihoods in Huaran through sustainable development and regenerative community building. Casita Huaran achieves this through a social enterprise model, centering around environmental protection, supporting the education of young students, bringing communities together and providing livelihoods for those who wish to learn a new way of life.
Image taken by Casita Huaran.
Unfortunately, COVID impacted communities supported by Casita Huaran through their dependence on an already fragile system – tourism consumed community activity and food systems relied on external inputs and importing. With this came a double loss of land and income. However, with this impact came the realisation that local resources and livelihoods were central to keeping communities safe and healthy. The organisation’s founders aided communities’ return to the earth: building meaningful local relationships with children and developing health and wellbeing through local actions.
Through this came the regeneration of local farming to respond to food shortages and begin reinvesting in local food systems. A community initiative with expats raised money for food baskets for highland communities who had lost jobs through the lack of tourism. Beyond providing resources, this initiative began to re-establish relationships between highland and expat communities that were previously divided. From this, developed a free restaurant, Comidor, to channel resources and provide access to food. Ultimately, this demonstrated to the younger generation the value of skills and knowledge to pool and use resources sustainability in the face of a crisis. This is best summated by Tania at Casita Huaran:
“The scale of the work allows for cultural knowledge and local ownership in ways that larger scale initiatives don’t.”
CALOR also initiated the creation of a local market for produce in the valley as well as weaving markets for highland communities to build community and an economy for textile weavers. Due to difficulty in getting produce between local locations an online platform for mass purchasing of products in the valley, was set up. This, in many ways, protected the community in the midst of a lack of governmental support.
In discussions with the organisations, it was again highlighted the value of children and youth in creating meaningful and impactful change in the communities of Huaran. By placing focus on young students, the work of Casita Huaran and CALOR allowed the youth to catalyse improvements to the health of communities. In Huaran, young people have ownership in the rehabilitation of local agriculture and food systems and sovereignty, they have a channel to bring together all the resources of the sacred valley – knowledge, skills and tradition – and create a small bubble of opportunity. Truly, this is an inspiring example of a sustainable and ecological local economy that enhances the health and wellbeing of children, adolescents and adults:
“Everything you do here, can be replicated and done elsewhere – local ideas can help other places”